Bhat, Matthews Win Academy Awards for Technical Achievement

Iain Matthews, an adjunct faculty member in the Robotics Institute, accepts his Oscar at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

School of Computer Science alumnus Kiran Bhat and former Robotics Institute faculty member Iain Matthews are among 18 winners of this year's Scientific & Technical Achievements Awards, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

Both were recognized for their work in capturing facial performances. The technical awards were presented during a Feb. 11 ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel hosted by actors John Cho and Leslie Mann. Portions of the presentation will be included in the Oscars telecast that begins at 7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Feb. 26, on ABC.

Bhat, who earned his doctorate in robotics in 2004, was recognized with Michael Koperwas, Brian Cantwell and Paige Warner for the design and development of the Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) facial performance-capture solving system.

The system, which transfers facial performances from actors to digital characters in large-scale productions, was used in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" to resurrect the late actor Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin character and also in "The Avengers" to capture Mark Ruffalo's expressions for his character, the Hulk.

Bhat has moved on to found, a company that is converting selfies into 3-D avatars.

Matthews was recognized with Luca Fascione and J.P. Lewis for the design, engineering and development of the FACETS facial-performance capture and solving system at Weta Digital. Matthews was a post-doctoral researcher and then a faculty member in the Robotics Institute working on face modeling and vision-based tracking. In 2006, he joined Weta Digital and spent two years helping to develop the facial motion capture system for "Avatar" and "Tintin."

FACETS was one of the first reliable systems to demonstrate accurate facial tracking from an actor-mounted camera, which enables animators to bring the nuance of the original live performances to a new level of fidelity for animated characters.

In 2008, Matthews joined Disney Research in Pittsburgh as a senior research scientist, and he recently took a research scientist position at Oculus Research in Pittsburgh. He holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the Robotics Institute.

With Bhat's and Matthews' wins, Carnegie Mellon alumni and faculty have received nine Academy Awards to date.



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