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Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman
Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman of the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

Never forget a face. Or the people who are pioneering new ways to represent those faces in an era of enhanced computer visualization.

Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Washington, is the founder of Dreambit, the personalized image search engine that was acquired by Facebook. She makes her living reimagining how we look at faces and how faces can look when appearances are tweaked or age is accounted for.

And, smile! Kemelmacher-Shlizerman is our latest Geek of the Week.

With a PhD in computer science and applied mathematics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Kemelmacher-Shlizerman has been a UW professor for four years. Her team’s 3D face reconstruction technology won Innovation of the Year at the 2016 GeekWire Awards and their latest effort, turning audio into realistic lip-synced video, is a ground-breaking effort that could change the way we hear — and see — historic voices as well as improve modern video conferencing.

Along the way, Kemelmacher-Shlizerman’s work on “illumination aware age progression” and its application in the search for missing children has been featured by national media outlets. She also taught the world’s first HoloLens development capstone at UW.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I would like to be able to model and create a virtual version of any person in the world from existing photographs and video streams. My research and passion is in computer vision and graphics. I’m creating algorithms to enable creative visualization of history (our photos), telepresence (virtual 3D communication with my family and friends), synthesis and predictions of appearances of people — e.g., for missing children search we are predicting how children will look after five, 10, 20 years. Also working on many more in sports visualization, telepresence, and other experiences involving people modeling.”

Some example works:

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Our photos and videos tell a ton of about ourselves, our histories, how people grow, age, learn to walk, and change over time. Exploring and learning from that data will enable magical applications in telepresence, health, sports, entertainment and many other unexpected ones. enabling all this in 3D will create novel augmented and virtual reality content. this will be a breakthrough in how we communicate, and enable a much more connected world.”

Where do you find your inspiration? “In my family. I’d like to make my and others families’ life easier, exciting, healthier, and united.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Texting and video communication.”


Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman in a demo for Dreambit, which shows an original image, at top left, and the Dreambit results from searches including “curly hair,” “India,” and “1930.” (Via Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, University of Washington)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I love working in cafes and change the setting around me all the time! I also have my UW office where I meet with students, and my Facebook space where I work with the team. I found that I thrive when I am not fixed to some particular location rather move between places.”

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “Decide every day what’s the most impactful task I can do today and focus on it first.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac and Linux.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “I just did … Dreambit :)”

I once waited in line for … “Bananas (as a kid during Soviet Union times in Ukraine).”

Your role models: “My parents.”

Best gadget ever: “Tesla.”

First computer: “Lenovo ThinkPad Z60.”

Current phone: “iPhone.”

Favorite app: “Zappos.”

Most important technology of 2016: “VR.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Keep inventing!”

Website: University of Washington bio

Twitter: @kemelmi

LinkedIn: Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman

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