The interview was taken by Mathias Lux on July 5th, 2013, at the QoMEX 2013 workshop in Klagenfurt, Austria.
Dr. Aljosa Smolic joined Disney Research Zürich, Switzerland in 2009, as Senior Research Scientist and Head of the “Advanced Video Technology” group. Before he was Scientific Project Manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI), Berlin, also heading a research group. He has been involved in several national and international research projects, where he conducted research in various fields of video processing, video coding, computer vision and computer graphics and published more than 100 refereed papers in these fields. In current projects he is responsible for research in 2D video, 3D video and free viewpoint video processing and coding.
Q: What is your main area of research?
A: I’m working on video processing in a general sense and visual computing. I’m interested in everything related to pixel processing like camera systems, processing visual information, perception and computational systems that are creating high quality output for the user.
Q: What got you interested in this area in the first place?
A: In my studies in electrical engineering I was focusing on audio processing, in a sense that if I wouldn’t become a rock star, I still could be an audio engineer. Then I got the opportunity to work at Fraunhofer HHI on Image Processing, where I turned my signal processing interests from audio to image processing, and that’s how I ended up here.
Q: Does your research & work influence your private life a lot, like owning a stereoscopic TV, taking a lot of videos and photos, etc.?
A: Yes, in a sense that I’m very critical on any type of visual information. I’m also very picky watching television and I notice all the small imperfections. I have an expert view on cinema, any type of multimedia presentation and audio. On the other hand I don’t create too much content myself. I don’t have a special camera and I don’t do too much of filming. And I don’t have too much of fancy 3D equipment for myself at home.
Q: Speaking of 3D equipment at home … Obviously 3D TV home equipment didn’t start off too well. Do you think 3D TV will rise again in say 10-15 years, or will we skip towards the “holodeck”?
A: The holodeck … I formulated that as my long term research question, so I’m still working on it and it’s still a long way. We are not yet there and stereo or 3D TV at home didn’t reach the broad adoption that many people thought of two or three years ago. I believe TV is a more difficult thing than for instance home cinema on Blue-Ray. I think business & technology based on 3D Blue-Ray disk work well. You can buy content, which is very well produced to be consumed in a situation very similar to watching a movie in a cinema. But I think it’s more difficult to adopt stereoscopic technology for the classic TV watching experience, which should be more social. The quality of the content should be better, and the need to wear glasses is not that accepted for watching TV.
Q: What are possible technological advances between now and the holodeck? Does something like Illumiroom (a project from Microsoft Research, that projects peripheral content around a screen) or higher resolutions like 4K will have an impact?
A: Things like Illumiroom and Philips Ambilight are all a step towards the holodeck as much as stereoscopic TV was. I believe there are a lot of more steps in different directions necessary in order to get a 3D immersive experience. Regarding higher resolutions, I’m not so enthusiastic about 4K. As from what I saw so far the difference between HD and 4k is very subtle. Only under very specific conditions and very specific distances you are able to perceive any difference. So I don’t think it matters that much and I don’t see that 4K will have that much of an impact over HD.
I rather look forward to HDR. I’ve seen a few demos which offered an impressive level of experience.
Those displays are starting to become available in professional and consumer markets.
Q: If you would re-start your PhD right now, would you end up in the same field or do you think there is another research direction that is more interesting to you right now?
A: I don’t know … I could always do theoretical physics and go to CERN to try to create black holes, which is always an option. The other option would be to work more on the rock star career. Well, but I’m pretty happy where I ended up right now.
Dr. Aljoša Smolić joined Disney Research Zurich, Switzerland in 2009, as Senior Research Scientist and Head of the “Advanced Video Technology” group. Before he was Scientific Project Manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI), Berlin, also heading a research group. He has been involved in several national and international research projects, where he conducted research in various fields of video processing, video coding, computer vision and computer graphics and published more than 100 referred papers in these fields. In current projects he is responsible for research in 2D video, 3D video and free viewpoint video processing and coding. He received the Dipl.-Ing. Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany in 1996, and the Dr.-Ing. Degree in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology from Aachen University of Technology (RWTH), Germany, in 2001. Dr. Smolic received the “Rudolf-Urtlel-Award” of the German Society for Technology in TV and Cinema (FKTG) for his dissertation in 2002. He is Area Editor for Signal Processing: Image Communication and served as Guest Editor for the Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Transactions on CSVT, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, and other scientific journals. He chaired the MPEG ad hoc group on 3DAV pioneering standards for 3D video. In this context he also served as one of the Editors of the Multi-view Video Coding (MVC) standard. Since many years he is teaching full lecture courses on Multimedia Communications and other topics, now at ETH Zurich.
Dr. Mathias Lux is a Senior Assistant Professor at the Institute for Information Technology (ITEC) at Klagenfurt University, where he has been since 2006. He received his M.S. in Mathematics in 2004 and his Ph.D. in Telematics in 2006 from Graz University of Technology. Before joining Klagenfurt University, he worked in industry on web-based applications, as a junior researcher at a research center for knowledge-based applications, and as research and teaching assistant at the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI) of Graz University of Technology. In research, he is working on user intentions in multimedia retrieval and production, visual information retrieval, and serious games. In his scientific career he has (co-) authored more than 60 scientific publications, has served in multiple program committees and as reviewer of international conferences, journals, and magazines, and has organized several scientific events. He is also well known for managing the development of the award-winning and popular open source tools Caliph & Emir and LIRE for visual information retrieval.