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Room for innovation

Courtesy of Binghamton University 

Self-destructing e-mail. A camera that can tell whether a driver is sleepy. New techniques to enable people with disabilities to make art. 

These are just a few of the projects bubbling up from the new Seymour Kunis Media Core, a facility in Binghamton’s Engineering and Science Building that’s part research lab and part movie studio. 

“It has some theatrical equipment and it also is a configurable research space,” says Scott Craver, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who helped design the large room without walls. “I worked at Intel, and at our microprocessor research lab we had a media space like this, but it was smaller. Here, we can designate space for students to work in and even leave experiments set up for two years if we need to. That gives us the opportunity to take ideas further.” 

Craver, a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, conducts research related to information security, especially digital watermarks and ways to break them. He and doctoral student Idris Atakli are developing the Brief-lifetime Ink (BLINK) system. The device, designed to sit on the cable between a computer and a monitor, can temporarily decode an encrypted document, achieving the goal of self-destructing e-mail that can’t be copied or shared. 

BLINK is just one of the futuristic projects Binghamton researchers are working on in the media core. Craver and doctoral student Alireza Farrokh Baroughi have found ways to fool speech- and facial-recognition systems. Recent master’s degree recipient Kenneth Weimer worked on that project and on a steganographic operating system — an OS and file system that is concealed in documents and files like PDFs. 

The media core has a green screen; an overhead grid for hanging lights and cables; a storage room that doubles as a control room; power and data ports in the walls, floor and ceiling; and a rear-projection video wall ideal for testing human-computer interaction. 

“The lab is a good space for new collaborative research,” says Lijun Yin, an associate professor of computer science who also works there. 

Yin envisions outfitting the lab with hidden cameras ideal for experiments in facial recognition, eye tracking and gesture-based computing. For now, a couple of cameras and a large monitor provide a way to test a new eye-tracking technology with applications in gaming, education and healthcare. 

“Eventually, computers will be able to read people’s intentions,” says Yin, who plans to combine eye tracking with physiological data to measure stress levels and other factors. 

Yin’s working with doctoral student Shaun Canavan on a simulation project designed to measure drivers’ gaze and determine whether they’re sleepy. Another project, combining speech, video and 3D graphics, could enable people with physical disabilities to create art or compose e-mail messages more easily. 

Undergraduate engineering students also find inspiration in the media core. Craver oversees several senior design teams each year, and their projects add a touch of whimsy to the space. The current crop of students is working on an interactive design table as well as an electronic slide trombone. 

On a recent afternoon, Craver pulled apart a tape measure while talking with a few undergrads about the components they’d need to build the trombone. “How fast is fast?” he asks as they discuss reaction time, gesturing as if he’s playing the instrument. 

Other recent student creations include a wearable musical instrument with what Craver calls a “Spiderman interface” as well as an instrument that can be played with what looks like a bouquet of computer mice.  

For a 360-degree view inside the lab, visit

Tags Tags: Binghamton University , Research

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