Summer Research

2017 Summer Research Applications are Open! Apply Here!

One of the reasons students attend Penn is for access to faculty and research opportunities, yet few undergraduates take advantage of this opportunity. While classroom experience is essential, so is the opportunity to create new knowledge while examining the unknown. The Digital Media Design program is closely related to the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation and the ViDi Center for Digital Visualization. Research projects are undertaken by heterogeneous teams of graduate and undergraduate students and visitors. Undergraduates who contribute in a substantial way become co-authors in publications. In the past few years, summer researchers in HMS and ViDi have had papers published in notable computer graphics academic conferences and journals.

From year to year the internship topics vary depending on funding, research needs, and student interests. The projects have overall faculty guidance, but students are expected to learn new software systems, do extensive programming, contribute to archival materials (software, documentation and written papers), and orally present their work to others. Posters and participation in department-wide research demonstrations is strongly encouraged.

Many of the participating undergraduate students from previous summers are recognized through authorship in published papers.

2017 Topics include:

[Norman Badler] Create knowledge bases, terrain, and animated (simulated) human activities in an archaeological and/or historical setting. Various research components contribute to this goal, including directed simulation, interactive virtual reality, mechanisms and types of person-to-person interaction, user presence as a participating agent, modeling appropriately attired and outfitted human models, human responses to environmental conditions, and agent behavior authoring (user interface) tools. The student will work with 3D modeling tools such as Maya, a game engine such as Unity3D or Unreal, and our own animation system to model, simulate, and integrate individual and group behaviors on a community-wide scale.. Computer programming experience is required. The student will benefit from working in an interdisciplinary team, building a real application system, exposing new problems to resolve, and contributing to publications.

[Stephen Lane] (1) Currently there is a great deal of interest in creating "immersive cinema" experiences in which the user views and interacts with 3D content using a head-mounted virtual reality display (HMD). Unlike traditional filmmaking where the director creates a visual narrative by effectively positioning and orienting the camera in order to focus the viewer's attention on objects of interest in the scene (e.g. characters, events, actions, etc.), in immersive film-making the director has no direct control over where the user looks or what they see. That is, although the director can position the camera in a 3D scene, it is the user who determines what is of interest and how they should move their head and eyes to focus their attention on the associated objects of interest in the scene. As a result, one of a director's main visual story telling tools (i.e. creating visual sequences through positioning and orienting of the camera) is considerably impaired and/or limited when creating immersive cinema experiences.

This project intends to address this limitation by investigating how state-of-the art eye tracking technology, in conjunction with visual stimuli presented to a user in a head-mounted display system, can create subliminal visual cues that direct the user's focus of attention to particular locations in a scene (without the user consciously knowing why they looked at the object and/or location). User focus of attention will be determined by the gaze direction of the eyes. In this project an Oculus HMD device retrofitted with eye tracking capabilities will be used to determine how changes in parameters of various visual stimuli (e.g. shape, color, texture, animation, etc.) effect the ability to direct the user's focus of attention to particular locations in space as a function of eye saccade distance (i.e. angular separation between two fixation points), background color, background textures and lighting. Successful completion of the project will provide directors with a new set of visual story telling tools for effectively directing user's focus of attention in immersive cinema experiences.

[Stephen Lane] (2) Current medical training systems often use instrumented human-like manikins to simulate various medical conditions and scenarios. These manikins are routinely employed for education and certification of medical professionals. Unfortunately the ability of current simulation systems to create more realistic training scenarios through interactive changes to the physical characteristics of the manikin (such as facial expressions, appearance and color of the skin, breathing patterns and body movements) is extremely limited and also very costly to implement. This project will address this need by enhancing the fidelity, realism and effectiveness of existing medical manikin training systems using advanced augmented reality user interfaces that replace the visual appearance of the physical manikin with a computer-generated 3D "virtual" version while at the same time allowing the user to still touch and interact with the physical manikin. The Microsoft Hololens head-mounted display will be used to develop a proof-of-concept anesthesia application that allows participants to visualize virtual symptoms superimposed upon and integrated with a standard computerized manikin training model. Successful completion of the project will lay the foundation for use of augmented reality user interfaces in a broad spectrum of other medical education, simulation, training and patient safety applications where participants need to physically interact with a virtual patient using instruments, devices and other objects typically utilized in a real world medical situation or facility.

[Chenfanfu Jiang] Particle based methods such as Position Based Dynamics (PBD) and Material Point Method (MPM) have been getting increasingly popular in physics based animation due to their simplicity and power in representing complex topology and modeling accurate material behaviors. The goal of the summer project is to explore cutting edge research directions in these methods. Topics may include (but not limited to) (1) Physical modeling of material discontinuity (fracture, crack); (2) Understanding and accurately simulating chemical reactions (such as corrosion, rusting) for animation; (3) Imposing hard constraints (such as incompressibility and rigidity) in a hybrid particle solver; (4) Fully implicit coupling between different particle solvers; (5) Non-convex optimization techniques for robustness and efficiency of particle based simulation methods; (6) Artistic control of granular material simulation etc. The student learns to design robust solid/fluid solvers and develops new features and experiments with research ideas. The student will also work with 3D software such as Houdini for modeling and rendering simulation geometry. C++ experience is required. Basic multivariable calculus and linear algebra are required. Knowledge in continuum mechanics, numerical methods, finite element method, nonlinear optimization, scientific computing are strongly recommended. Research accomplishments lead to publications and collaborations with animation/visual effect industry on state-of-art simulation techniques.

The application form for the 2017 summer research internship is here . Positions are limited by available funding. Decisions and offer letters will be made approximately April 15, 2017.


Recent Publications Featuring Undergraduate Students


"The Distribution of Carried Items in Urban Environments"
Elissa Wolf, Norman Badler.
Presence J., 2015.

"Planning Approaches to Constraint-Aware Navigation in Dynamic Environments"
Mubbasir Kapadia, Kai Ninomiya, Alexander Shoulson, Francisco Garcia, Norman Badler.
Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, 26(2), 119-139, March 2015.

"Generating a Multiplicity of Policies for Agent Steering in Crowd Simulation"
Cory Boatright, Mubbasir Kapadia, Jennie Shapira, Norman Badler.
Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, 26(5), 483-494, September 2015.

"ADAPT: The Agent Development and Prototyping Testbed"
Alexander Shoulson, Nathan Marshak, Mubbasir Kapadia, Norman Badler.
IEEE Trans. on Visualization and Computer Graphis 20(7), pp. 1035-1047, July 2014.

"Planning Approaches to Constraint-Aware Navigation in Dynamic Environments"
Mubbasir Kapadia, Kai Ninomiya, Alexander Shoulson, Francisco Garcia, Norman Badler.
Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, 26(2), 119-139, March 2015.

"An Event-Centric Planning Approach for Dynamic Real-Time Narrative"
Alexander Shoulson, Mubbasir Kapadia, Norman I. Badler.
MIG '13 Proceedings of Motion on Games, 121-130, 2013.

"The Effect of Posture and Dynamics on the Perception of Emotion"
Aline Normoyle, Fannie Liu, Mubbasir Kapadia, Norman I. Badler, Sophie Jorg.
Symposium on Applied Perception, 2013.

"Pedestrian Anomaly Detection Using Context-Sensitive Crowd Simulation"
Cory Boatright, Mubbasir Kapadia, Jennie Shapira, Norman I. Badler.
First International Workshop on Pattern Recognition and Crowd Analysis, November 2012.

"Animating Synthetic Dyadic Conversations With Variations Based on Context and Agent Attributes"
Libo Sun, Alexander Shoulson, Pengfei Huang, Nicole Nelson, Wenhu Qin, Ani Nenkova, Norman I. Badler.
Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds J., 2012.

"A Data-Driven Appearance Model for Human Fatigue"
Joseph T. Kider Jr, Kaitlin Pollock, Alla Safonova.
ACM/Eurographics Symposium on Computer Animation, 2011.

"Parameterizing Behavior Trees"
Alexander Shoulson, Francisco Garcia, Matthew Jones, Robert Mead, Norman I. Badler.
4th International Conference on Motion in Games, November 2011.

"Human Model Reaching, Grasping, Looking and Sitting Using Smart Objects"
Damian Slonneger, Matthew Croop, Jeremy Cytryn, Joseph T. Kider,Jr., Richard Rabbitz, Eric Halpern, Norman I. Badler.
International Symposium on Digital Human Modeling, 2011.

"Fruit Senescence and Decay Simulation"
Joseph T. Kider, Jr., Samantha Raja, Norman I. Badler.
Eurographics, 2011.

"CRAM It! A Comparison of Virtual, Live-Action and Written Training Systems for Preparing Personnel to
Work in Hazardous Environments"

Catherine Stocker, Benjamin Sunshine-Hill, John Drake, Ian Perera, Joseph T. Kider Jr., Norman I. Badler.
Proc. IEEE Virtual Reality, 2011.

See all CG@Penn publications here .

Sample Posters from Summer Research