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And the Academy Award Goes to . . . a Computer Scientist


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University of Southern California computer scientist Paul E. Debevec

University of Southern California computer scientist Paul E. Debevec is to receive an Academy Award this month.

Credit: David Zentz / The Chronicle

University of Southern California (USC) computer scientist Paul E. Debevec has earned an Academy Award in science and engineering for his pioneering work on digital facial-rendering technology, which was used in the special effects for blockbuster films such as "Avatar."

For "Avatar," Debevec's methods were used to map the faces of live actors onto digital puppets. The effort involved the performers being scanned to provide three-dimensional face geometry that was very detailed.

Debevec, who directs the graphics laboratory at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, believes the technology may one day have applications for higher education. "Maybe there's a little rendering of a chemistry professor at the side of the screen who smiles at you when you get the question right and frowns when you get the question wrong," he says. "[In perhaps 10 years] that computer might, through its webcam, look back at you, see where you're looking on the screen, see how engaged you are, and actually adapt itself to trying to teach you in the way that it seems to be working the best."

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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