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Building the Holodeck

Aljosa Smolic is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of visual computing, which includes computation on media such as images, video and graphics. Smolic came to TCD in 2016 via a Science Foundation Ireland Targeted Professorship, a programme designed to attract outstanding talent to Ireland and recruit world-leading scientists and engineers. Before joining Trinity he was Senior Research Scientist at Disney Research Zurich where he led over 50 research projects, creating technologies that are still used in professional production today.

An early love of music led Smolic to study audio engineering at the Technical University of Berlin, but his interest in signal processing – coinciding with the rise of the personal computer – later prompted a move from sound to visual media. His research is characterised by a desire not only to advance the state of the art in computer technology, but to make these innovations readily accessible to creative users. This dual focus is reflected in his job title at Trinity: ‘Professor of Creative Technologies.’

In 2016 Smolic was awarded €4.7 million by SFI to lead the V-SENSE Research Group. V-SENSE aims to create technological innovations that empower creative industries and encourage new investment in Ireland. The research pushes the boundaries of immersive visualization (such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and light fields) and visual effects with a strong focus on machine learning solutions. It also empowers users to create content for social media or other online platforms. V-SENSE has formed numerous creative collaborations, including Virtual Play (with TCD drama department), an immersive VR adaptation of a work by Samuel Beckett; an augmented reality project with the Long Room Library that uses a 3D-rendering of TCD alumnus Jonathan Swift as a virtual tour-guide; and Faoladh (with artist Declan Dowling), a stereoscopic VR film that follows a child in ancient Ireland as he attempts to flee a Viking raid. Additional creative productions are currently in the pipeline.

In 2017 Smolic won funding from Horizon 2020 to develop ‘smart assets’, 2D and 3D data that could be used in creative media production. The SAUCE project is a collaboration between international partners from a London-based post-production industry, Disney Research and academia. Smolic’s team will contribute in the areas of light field imaging and computer animation (crowd simulation).

Research connections made at V-SENSE inspired three TCD researchers, Rafael Pagés, Jan Ondřej, and Konstantinos Amplianitis, to create their own spin-out venture in VR/AR technology. After securing €850,000 in seed investment from the Atlantic Bridge University Bridge Fund and Enterprise Ireland, the researchers went on to found ‘Volograms’ in 2018, engaging Smolic as Scientific Advisor. Volograms uses a set of videos taken from different viewpoints, transforming them into 3D holograms that can be viewed in virtual or augmented reality. The technology has a huge range of potential applications in areas such as gaming, education, and media.

Smolic’s future research goal is to keep creating new visual technologies while adapting to emerging innovations such as machine learning. While upcoming VR/AR technology will have important applications in the fields of business and communication, it is the potential creative uses that most excite Smolic – he predicts that just as cinema broke away from the visuals of the threatre, the three-dimensional and immersive qualities of VR/AR media will enable future artists to reinvent storytelling in radical new ways.


- Article written by Dr. Kate Roddy, Research Projects Officer, Trinity Research & Innovation

Trinity Research and Innovation (TR&I) provides support and advice along the ‘concept to impact’ continuum, starting with research funding applications, through to contract negotiation and signature, intellectual property management, the exploitation of research outputs via consultancy, licensing, and formation of campus spin outs.  For more information: 

Aljosa Smolic

Prof. Smolic is SFI Research Professor of Creative Technologies at Trinity College Dublin.

His research group V-SENSE is on visual computing, combining computer vision, computer graphics and media technology with specific focus on immersive technologies such as AR, VR, volumetric video, 360/omni-directional video, light-fields, and VFX/animation, with a special focus on deep learning.