UCF innovations win top awards at TechConnect 2021 global conference

Assistant Professor Gerd Bruder of the UCF Institute for Simulation and Training and AdventHealth Chair in Healthcare Simulation, Greg Welch of the College of Nursing, won an innovation award at the global conference TechConnect 2021 for a new way to magnify objects in augmented reality (AR).

The conference, which has been held annually for more than 20 years, promotes itself as the “largest innovation pipeline on the planet”. He has put more than 20,000 inventions in touch with industrial partners.

The patent-pending Bruder and Welch invention is the result of research to improve the wearable headsets that people use when entering AR environments. New technology allows the user to magnify objects in real time, mimicking the way our eyes magnify and naturally adjust objects in the blink of an eye.

Current AR technology allows users to magnify objects but only from photos or by activating other steps in the headset. Bruder and Welch’s invention, however, implements machine learning to allow users to focus and react in real time. Users can even use hand gestures to customize the degree of magnification.

The team’s initial research shows that the technology can be applied to enlarge heads, allowing users to observe facial expressions in more detail. Users can also gain a tactical advantage by magnifying objects such as cars or equipment. Going forward, Bruder expects it can be used to improve military and commercial surveillance.

This technology has been in development for years, say the contributors.

Bruder holds a master’s and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Münster in Germany. In 2016, he left his native Germany to start working at UCF, where he met Welch, a Pegasus professor who co-directs the synthetic reality lab housed at IST. They have been working together ever since. A year ago, they submitted an invention disclosure and began the process of commercializing their research.

“Before joining UCF, I had never seen this level of interest in the research that I do,” says Bruder. “This university, and my institute in particular, are extremely good at making connections between fundamental researchers like me and people in industry.”

During the commercialization process, the Technology Transfer Office helped Bruder and Welch file a patent and suggested potential uses for research that they would not otherwise have imagined.

Jennifer McKinley, who heads business development for the Department of Physical Sciences, encouraged the duo to submit their innovation to the TechConnect conference. McKinley also gave the award-winning technology presentation in November on behalf of the research team. The technology was also recently recognized at the Spatial User Interaction Conference 2021, receiving the “Best Poster / Demo Award”.

Welch is no stranger to innovation. Since his arrival at UCF, his research has produced at least 10 patents.

Other people linked to UCF were also recognized at the conference, which was held late last month.

This year, graduated in materials science and engineering Christina Drake ’07PhD participated in the Innovation Showcase, with a nanoparticle disinfectant spray that his company, Kismet Technologies, is developing in collaboration with two other UCF professors. At the 2020 Virtual Conference, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Fudong Liu received a Defense Innovation Award for his work using catalysts to minimize pollutants in engine exhaust.

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