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Published: 10 September 2013

4D computer vision pioneer honoured with Royal Society Award

Surrey’s Professor Adrian Hilton has won a prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award for his pioneering research into 4D computer vision modelling – technology that is changing the way we analyse sport, enjoy digital entertainment and diagnose medical conditions.

The agony of watching your football team lose a vital match because of a disallowed goal will soon be a distant memory, thanks to research led by Professor Hilton, Director of Surrey’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP). Bridging the gap between the real world and computer-generated imagery, 4D vision can sense both 3D shape and motion, enabling ‘seeing’ machines that can understand and model dynamic scenes – such as the exact line of a football across a goal mouth.

Having specialised in computer vision analysis throughout his 15 year career at the University of Surrey, Professor Hilton is at the forefront of international research in this field. Recognising his outstanding contribution, the Royal Society’s Wolfson Research Merit Award – which is given to only a few highly respected UK scientists every year – will enable the University to continue the momentum of his research under his expert leadership. One of the largest UK research groups in computer vision, pattern recognition, signal processing and multimedia communications, CVSSP has over 100 researchers and a grant portfolio of more than £9m.

Although computer vision technology has evolved rapidly over the past decade – with features such as face detection on smartphones or motion capture for computer games becoming increasingly common – developing technology that can reliably interpret real-life scenes presents more challenging problems.

Professor Hilton and his team are working to overcome these challenges and develop the next generation of 4D vision, which will open up a wealth of new applications across the worlds of sports, medicine and veterinary science, film and games production, security and surveillance, robotics and human-computer communication. Already used by the BBC in its sports commentary to visualise the action from different directions, 4D vision has the potential to measure the biomechanics of an Olympic athlete performing a world-record high jump, for example, or to understand the relationship of body shape with health problems such as obesity.

“Receiving the RS Wolfson Research Merit Award is a great honour,” says Professor Hilton. “It reflects both our pioneering work in the field of 4D vision applied to content production with the UK creative industry, and the potential of 4D vision for future breakthroughs in applications ranging from medical diagnosis for people and animals, to live analysis of athletic performance.”

“We have already begun collaboration investigations on the application of 4D vision in the area of veterinary science to monitor animal movement and behaviour as a diagnostic tool, and we hope to expand this collaboration as the University’s new Veterinary School is established.”

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society, the Wolfson Research Merit Award is aimed at facilitating research excellence by enabling universities to attract and retain talented UK scientists working in life and physical sciences. Each Award provides up to five years’ funding in the form of a salary enhancement.