Nokia selected UH, along with several other universities, to join a worldwide research competition with a $30,000 grant and 15 Nokia N900 cellphones.
The Nokia Open Innovation Award is a worldwide competition between university research centers. Each university team collaborates with one of the existing Nokia research centers to submit their proposals to an internal review, which will then go through a selection process.
The UH team is being led by Zhigang Deng, assistant professor of computer science and the founding director of UH computer graphics and interactive media lab.
“I hope to use about nine months to design and develop the research prototype system,” Deng said. “We will use three months to perform a preliminary user study at UH campus to validate the usability and effectiveness of the system to be developed in this project. We will post campus advertisements to recruit students and staff members who are interested in testing the research system.”
Deng, along with his team of students, including doctorate students Xiaohan Ma and Mario Rincon, have been working and collaborating with researchers at the Nokia Research Center at Palo Alto to develop a new type of mixed reality mobile social game. It consists of two interacting components: a physical world component and a virtual world component.
Soon students will have the opportunity to make direct contributions to Deng’s research by participating in testing and evaluation of the prototype.
“The outcome of this research may eventually benefit millions of smartphone users, of course, including average students who have smartphones,” Deng said.
The team will compete alongside universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT and USC.
This award is not Deng’s first; last September he received a highly competitive faculty research award from Google.
“The difference between the Google award and the Nokia award is, when I applied for the Google faculty research award, I did not need to identify a Google researcher to collaborate with,” Deng said. “I just needed to write a research proposal. If it is exciting and interesting, of course, Google needed to like it, and they will fund it without any conditions.”
The awards could help advance the department’s reputation by increasing visibility and recognition of the program with leading IT industry corporations, according to Deng.
“Through such highly competitive faculty research awards, it will help UH researchers to establish close connections and collaboration with those IT industry leaders,” Deng said. “Consequently, it will be easier for us to recommend our excellent students to do summer research internships at those leading research centers.”
Deng hopes this new research project will not only expand a new line of mobile-based human computer interaction research, but that it will benefit research at UH and the students doing it.
“Besides pursuing research award renewal from Nokia and Google in the future, we will simultaneously look for other funding opportunities such as NSF for this research.”