SFU professor Dr. Manolis Savva appointed as Tier 2 Canada Research Chair

The new position allows Savva to expand the research on AI and computer graphics

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Habitat: A Platform for Embodied AI Research [Savva et al. 2019]

Written by: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

Two years after starting as an assistant professor at SFU’s School of Computing Science, Dr. Manolis Savva was selected as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in computer graphics. The position increases funding and networking opportunities for his research on computer graphics and artificial intelligence (AI).

The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat and annually invests approximately $295 million to various research projects. 

In an email interview with The Peak, Saava expressed his gratitude for the appointment and the opportunity to further his research on “analysis, organization, and generation of 3D representations of objects, scenes, and people.” This reflects his teaching philosophy that visual representations best clarify concepts. 

Savva’s interest in computer graphics developed during his time at Cornell University, majoring in physics. He took a computer graphics class that incorporated physics and was intrigued by algorithms’ application in entertainment and simulations. He then became interested in pursuing further education in computer science. Acknowledging computer software’s increasing role in communication and knowledge, Savva recognized that his role as a researcher entailed great responsibility. 

By expanding the use of algorithms beyond simple simulations to incorporate 3D structures into 3D environments, Savva’s research intends to “teach AI how to dream in 3D.” His work addresses the lack of research on 3D simulations in AI and their applications by expanding the use of algorithms to build 3D environments.

Savva noted that “there is much knowledge about the world that we cannot yet represent well digitally and we therefore can’t understand or generate using algorithms [ . . . ] My work asks the question, ‘What data and algorithms do we need to understand and generate 3D scenes like these?’”

According to Savva, further improvements for AI in the post-pandemic world could include enhancing video-conferencing applications to incorporate high-quality 3D graphics. He envisions technology, “where two or more people can see each other in a rich 3D interactive way and be co-present in a virtual space, [allowing] us to work together more effectively while still being physically far apart.

“Software can allow us to create many new things, discover new knowledge, and help to connect us [ . . . ] That’s why I feel there is great power in a computer scientist’s role within society, and we should feel a great deal of responsibility as well.”