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Message for students 2022:Royston Rodrigues

January 31, 2022

Leading the research on next generation AI technology for visual navigation

Biometrics Research Laboratories
Royston Rodrigues

Royston Rodrigues during his master’s thesis worked on a theme related to detecting abnormal activities in videos. During the research, he held a Research Assistant position at the National Center for Excellence in technology for Internal Security, India. This experience paved the way for him to submit his research papers to reputed international conferences in the field of computer vision. He joined NEC in October 2019.

Leading the research on next generation AI technology for visual navigation

At NEC, I have been researching on a visual navigation technique called Cross-View Image Geo-Localization 1,2. The goal of image geo-localization is to determine location of images by using computer vision techniques. By using this technology, we can discover location of images by matching them against a database of geo-tagged aerial imagery.

One of the main challenges in realizing this technology is that scenes could be varied temporally, during which new landmarks such as buildings might appear or existing ones might disappear. As it is impossible to guarantee the storage of aerial imagery across all time instants, a technique robust to temporal variation in scenes becomes of paramount importance. As challenging as it seems, this research project has inspired us to think beyond current matching techniques.

Although this approach is still at its initial stage, we have seen its potential contribution to the development of autonomous driving. This Image Geo-Localization technology can become a critical component capable of upgrading existing navigation system. Current autonomous driving cars use both GPS sensors and bulky LiDAR sensors, the later could be replaced by the image matching technology such as Cross-View Image Geo-Location for enhanced location estimation. This technology is still cutting-edge and widely seen as a research topic for university labs. The world’s leading company for innovation and technology, NEC has been the first commercial entity to embark on this topic and I am proud to have led this research theme.

Open to differences, embrace diversity and recognize merit

Since I was a university student, I have been determined to build my professional career in Japan. The country is unique in many ways, and it has educated its own workforce including researchers to create a wide variety of innovative products, many of which are not only the pride of the country but also the admiration of the world. I have always wanted to find out what has made “Made in Japan” such a symbol of quality and respect, and here I am working for one of the most prestigious Japanese companies boasting more than 120 years of legacy. NEC is well known for its extensive coverage of research fields, ranging from communication fields such as 5G to advanced biometric technology such as facial recognition. The company has led numerous projects, many of which have contributed not only to the advancement of science but also to the betterment of society. With its global reach expanding furthermore, the company is open to foreigners, embracing cultural diversity, and trying to capitalize on different ways of thinking.

It is great that this technological hegemon of Japanese origin emphasizes the importance of gaining and learning from external perspectives. We can feel that foreign employees are valued, appreciated and expected to help lead the evolving organization to meet the ever-changing needs of the world.

The company seems to start putting more weight on merit-based evaluation rather than the traditional seniority system. Barely into my second year, I was awarded with Excellent Invention Award for my work and have been promoted to a researcher position. I am grateful that the company has recognized my contributions and continues to value my expertise.

Help technology contribute even more to the evolution of society

Just like every coin has two sides, technology has two dimensions: upside and downside. It is great to promote its benefits, while we should not overlook the risk that comes with it. Technology without appropriate protection system in place, as useful as it is, renders no value to mankind. For example, automatic cooking robot comes in handy. If we are, however, not aware of the risk and neglect to take precautions, it will bring no value but only negative consequences. That said, as much as contributing on the research front, I would like to help educate people to be more aware of the risk that comes with technological innovation. No one really likes to spend time on speaking about the downside of the technology that one has invested so much time and energy to bring to reality. That is why I want to be creative and take a lead in figuring out ways to help increase awareness. All of us want to be benefited from technological innovations for many years to come. Then we need to help be aware of both merits and risk.

  • The information posted on this website is the information at the time of publication.

A day at work

Message to my past self in my school days

Private column

I like to interact with people from different countries and learn from their experiences. I appreciate diversity as it can add a great deal to our personal and professional growth. Since joining the company, I have been living in the company-run dormitory for young foreign employees like myself. I enjoy the cross-cultural communications that the dorm life has given us abundantly. They come from a variety of countries in Asia, North America, and Europe, making up slightly less than 10% of the researchers currently working in NEC’s research laboratories in Japan. I am involved in organizing international get-together, an informal meeting where foreign employees from our department come together to share their experiences and exchange opinions. Japanese employees also join with an interest in cultural exchange and learning English. They give me a chance to learn about Japan. Despite that it has been only allowed to meet via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are building camaraderie that will be valued and cherished for so many years to come. I hope the day will come soon when all of us can meet in person to enjoy and inspire each other.