Ruzena Bajcsy

“Many people think of robotics as mechanical things, but robotics is also perception – and communication between machines.” – Ruzena Bajcsy

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Today is Wednesday which means it’s time for another Wonder Woman Wednesday post! Today’s feature is Ruzena Bajcsy, an electrical engineer and computer scientist, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Bajcsy received her PhD in electrical engineering from Slovak Technical University, and her PhD in computer science from Stanford. She was actually the first woman to obtain an electrical engineering PhD in Slovakia, which afforded her the opportunity to come to the United States and attend Stanford. Throughout the years, Bajcsy has garnered an incredible reputation through her research contributions and outstanding leadership. She founded UC Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRUS) where she is now director emeritus. She has published over 225 articles in journals and conference proceedings, 25 book chapters, and 66 technical reports. And she has received numerous awards for all of these accomplishments, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Computer and Cognitive Sciences, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Award, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Allen Newell Award. She was also named one of the 50 most important women in science in Discover Magazine’s November 2002 issue. Today, we will take a look at the main contributions that have afforded Bajcsy these awards.

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Bajcsy’s research focuses on a wide range of subjects including artificial intelligence, biosystems and computational biology, control, intelligent systems, and robotics, graphics and human computer interaction, computer vision, and security. Furthermore, she believes strongly in cross-disciplinary research, which is evident in the fact that she has a strong interest in biology and psychology. For example, she has looked at the sensory and motor adaptations in living organisms, and then translated that into her robotics work to determine how much sensor is needed in robots. Her cross-disciplinary talents have allowed her to bridge diverse areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering, and cognitive science. The two contributions in which Bajcsy is most well known for are “active perception” and “elastic matching.”

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Until the 1980s, the model for robotic vision was to interpret and analyze still images taken from static cameras and sensors. Bajcsy however, suggested a more effective method called “active perception” in which moving sensors would allow a machine to gather more information from the surroundings. This idea revolutionized the robotics field because it improved robotic perception greatly, and thus lead to a streamlining in robotic movement as well. Bajcsy was able to recognize and execute the need for robots to act more like humans to perceive their surroundings effectively. Furthermore, this paradigm of vision became applicable to the understanding of human vision, becoming the leading theory for human visual perception. This just goes to show the powerful cross-disciplinary effects of Bajcsy’s work.

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The other contribution by Bajcsy, known as “elastic matching” has transformed and improved medical imaging. The technique involves matching up defined points on anatomical structures and organs, allowing the structures to automatically, align, measure, and analyze the uniquely shaped body parts of an individual. By elastically fitting the deformed images into the idealized medical images, a computer can easily identify body parts and spot anomalies or problems. This has improved medicine by advancing non-invasive measurements of brain structure and function, for example.

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Bajcsy is a female scientist who has made significant contributions to multiple fields using her interdisciplinary work, in which the influences of psychology and biology on computer science and robotics is evident and necessary. Robots are commonly modeled after the human body after all, and perhaps in the future they will resemble human beings more and more closely. The contributions of scientists like Bajcsy, have initiated these scientific advancements in robotics and will continue to allow science to move forward. Thus, Bajcsy is our Wonder Woman this Wednesday because of both her cross-disciplinary research and her outstanding leadership in the creation of a world class robotics laboratory.

Article Written By: Lisa He






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