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Roy Choudhury Receives SIGMOBILE RockStar Award

5/14/2015 11:03:00 AM By Katie Carr, Coordinated Science Lab

CS @ ILLINOIS alumnus and current ECE Associate Professor Romit Roy Choudhury (PhD CS ’06) was recently awarded the 2015 ACM SIGMOBILE RockStar Award in recognition of “significant contributions, early in his career, to mobile sensing and wireless networking, with an emphasis on location and cross-layer protocols.” He will be presented the award in September at the 2015 ACM Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom) in Paris.

Romit Roy Chouchury
Romit Roy Chouchury
Romit Roy Chouchury

“It is an honor to receive this award and a validation that things we are trying in our labs are perceived as important and impactful by the wireless and mobile research community,” said Roy Choudhury, who is a researcher in the Coordinated Science Lab. “The award also gives us a cushion to not worry about failures as much and to be able to take bigger risks in our research.”

Fellow ECE Professor Nitin Vaidya nominated Roy Choudhury for the award, saying that he has “established himself as a leader in his research community.”

“Romit is certainly a deserving candidate for the award, having made impactful and visible contributions on mobile sensing and cross-layer wireless protocols,” Vaidya said.

Roy Choudhury’s main areas of work are in wireless networking and mobile computing, and in recent years, he has focused on doing what he calls “top-down research.”

“We try to envision different systems or technologies for the future and break them down into their building blocks to determine what the missing pieces are today,” he said. “We research and develop these missing pieces and glue them back together to build the end application.”

Roy Choudhury has recently been working with sensors embedded in smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearable devices. Projects include indoor localization, activity and gesture recognition, Internet of Things (IoT) and various forms of augmented reality.

“In our work, we treat the various sensors as a multidimensional opportunity to understand position, environment, behavior, and numerous other human contexts in daily lives,” Roy Choudhury said. “Applications are diverse, including navigation, mobile healthcare, smart cities, smart cars, privacy and security, entertainment, advertisement, and others.”

Roy Choudhury believes that the percolation of sensors in personal devices and in our surroundings can be metaphorically explained as “information lenses” that offer diverse perspectives of the physical world. When the data from these lenses are aggregated in the cloud, the collaborative insights can be extremely powerful.

As a simple example, Roy Choudhury’s team has combined sensors with computer vision to enable real-time augmented reality, where users can look at their surroundings through smartphones and observe annotation on objects in real time (see video above).

In indoor navigation, they infer user’s locations based on the sensor data on phones combined with WiFi signals (see video below). In other ongoing work, they are building a vibratory radio that communicates between mobile devices through vibrations, an application for IoT.

“Multimodal sensing opens doors to research problems that have traditionally been looked at from one perspective,” he said. “I’m seeing that once you carefully fuse various sources of information, insights emerge that would have been difficult to see in isolation.”

Roy Choudhury received his MS in electrical and computer engineering and PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois in 2003 and 2006, respectively. He spent seven years as an associate professor at Duke University before joining the ECE faculty at Illinois in fall 2013.

He received a 2013 Google Faculty Research Award, 2007 NSF Career Award, 2009 Hoffman Krippner Award for Innovations in Engineering and 2015 HotMobile Best Demo award.

“The RockStar award should actually go to my students, both former and current ones, who have passionately plunged into research and courageously taken on bold projects,” Roy Choudhury said. “They are an awesome rockband and I am always excited to jam with them.”