The Japanese researcher Takeo Kanade received the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies category for his contribution to the development of the mathematical foundations that drove machine vision and robot perception. This is the 16th edition of these awards awarded by the BBVA Foundation, in which the contributions of various academics in the field of scientific studies, technology, humanities and artistic creation are recognized. The prize is worth 400,000 euros.
Kanade, professor of computer science and robotics at the University Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh (United States), was credited with creating fundamental algorithms that enabled computers and robots to understand and interpret images and visual scenes, revolutionizing technologies such as robotic surgery, autonomous driving and facial recognition. Their research resulted in “solutions to a multitude of practical problems” such as the detection of objects in a visual field and the 3D reconstruction of scenes, which “made key technologies possible and revolutionized sports broadcasting”, underlines the jury in its judgment.
For four decades, Kanade was a pioneer in the scientific study of artificial vision, developing algorithms “that have significantly transformed the technological world in which we live”, underlines the jury. His innovative approach to robotic perception, he adds, has helped advance the link between perception and action in robots, thus being a catalyst for the development of artificial intelligence and robotics.
Notable contributions include the Lucas-Kanade method for estimating optical flow in images, as well as techniques to simplify three-dimensional image processing. In the words of the jury, these techniques have been “fundamental” for applications such as autonomous driving, drone guidance and 360-degree recreation of sports scenes.
In the field of robotic surgery, Kanade’s contributions have resulted in the creation of systems such as HipNav, used to improve the accuracy of hip replacements. The winner explained that his vision of the future “includes technologies to improve the quality of life, such as robots and devices to help elderly or disabled people live independently”, as well as virtual reality applications for experiences immersive during cultural events and the coordination of responses to natural disasters.
Kanade also took the opportunity to express his concern about “a possible malicious use of certain technologies resulting from his research”, such as fake videos (deep fakes). However, he added, he is confident that technology will help detect and prevent misuse of these apps.
Takeo Kanade, born in Japan in 1945, received his doctorate in electrical engineering from Kyoto University and joined Carnegie Mellon University in 1980, where he spent most of his career. He holds more than 20 patents and has served as an advisor to institutions such as NASA.