Robert Wang

Robert Wang
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer

Where did you grow up:

I grew up in Conway, a small town in Arkansas.

What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT?

I majored in computer science and economics at Carnegie Mellon.

What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours?

I've always wanted to be a computer scientist, and I remember solving programming puzzles and writing simple games on my TI calculator as a kid. I loved computer graphics and special effects in particular. As a graduate student at CSAIL, I get to work on the bleeding edge of computer graphics research.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I've spent a lot of time in student government and advocacy while at MIT. MIT is very open to feedback from students compared to other schools, and students have an important role in advising policy decisions here--even on our own stipends!

What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there?

I'm currently a graduate student in EECS. I started in September of 2004.

What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?

I work on practical 3-D motion capture systems. In particular, I've developed a 3-D gestural input device that can facilitate virtual reality at your desktop. The device is very inexpensive: it consists of a webcam and a cloth glove. I'm excited about this project because it can help bring virtual reality to a much larger audience.

What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL?

I love being challenged by my lab mates and getting feedback from them on wild ideas. I also like the social events such as Graduate Student Lunch and the CSAIL Olympics organized by the CSAIL Student Committee.

What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade?

I think graphics output technologies such as 3-D rendering and 3-D displays are rapidly maturing and enabling a lot of new applications. In the next decade, there will be a lot of development in input technologies such as gestural input devices, haptic devices for surgery, and new video game controllers. I'm exploring practical ways of bringing some of these input technologies into the home today.

What are your future plans?

I'd like to do a start-up related to computer graphics or computer vision.

What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student?

Learning how to do research is largely about learning how to pick what problems to work on. That's the most important thing you can learn from your advisor here.