Professor of Visual Computing Carol O’Sullivan Gives Inaugural Lecture

Posted on: 27 June 2011

Professor Carol O’Sullivan of Trinity’s School of Computer Science and Statistics gave her inaugural lecture, titled ‘Specs, Lies and Video games: Perceiving Realism in Virtual Worlds’, on Friday June 24th last on the occasion of her Professorship of Visual Computing.

In her lecture, Professor O’Sullivan highlighted how Virtual Worlds are becoming more and more a part of our lives and discussed some of the challenges of creating compelling dynamic scenes, from simple colliding spheres to a complex populated Metropolis.  Commenting on the importance of virtual technologies Professor O’Sullivan said: “We see them in movies, video games, online communities and even in serious applications, such as health and education.  Research in the field of visual computing has contributed greatly to increasing the realism of virtual objects, scenes and characters, by drawing on fundamental mathematical, scientific and technical principles to create stunning visual effects.  Ultimately, however, the realism of a virtual world is in the eye of the beholder, so human perception must also be considered as an integral part of the creative process.” 

Professorship of Visual Computing, Carol O’Sullivan pictured with the Dean of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Professor Clive Williams.

Professor O’Sullivan’s research focuses on computer graphics, computer animation and visual perception.  She leads the interdisciplinary project, Metropolis, funded by SFI, which is creating a virtual Dublin on a level of realism never seen before.  Metropolis combines computer graphics, engineering and cognitive neuroscience research to create the sights and sounds of a city populated with crowds of virtual humans.  Professor O’Sullivan recently received a Principal Investigator SFI Award, along with colleague Professor Fiona Newell of Psychology, for a new project called Captavatar.

TheCaptavatar project will combine computer graphics and social cognitive neuroscience, applying principles of human perceptual processing to endow virtual agents with maximum social appeal. There is an increasing demand for more realistic virtual characters, especially for games that involve interaction between the user and a virtual human, and entertainment applications designed to evoke intense emotions.  Within the creative industries, there is insufficient understanding about how the perceivable aspects of virtual characters (eg., facial expressions, voice intonations or bodily gestures and their combinations) increase user engagement. 

About Professor O’Sullivan:

Carol O’Sullivan is the Professor of Visual Computing in the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity where she leads the Graphics, Vision and Visualisation group (GV2) and is the Director of the newly established Centre for Creative Technologies.  After receiving a BA in Mathematics from Trinity College in 1988, she worked for several years as a software engineer in industry (mainly in Germany), followed by a Masters degree from Dublin City University in 1996 and a PhD in computer graphics from TCD in 1999. She has published over 120 peer-reviewed papers and supervised over 20 PhD students since then.  She was elected as the first Irish Fellow of the European Association for Computer Graphics (Eurographics) in 2007, and elected as a Fellow of Trinity College in 2003.  She is the Co-Editor in Chief of the ACM Transactions on Applied Perception, and the Associate Editor in Chief for Special Issues of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications.  She has chaired several international conferences, including Eurographics 2005, and is a member of Scientific Advisory Boards of the Max-Planck institute in Tübingen, Germany, and the Welsh Research institute of Visual Computing (RIVIC).  She served as Trinity’s Dean of Graduate Studies from 2007-2010.