The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University George Mason University

Dynamic Duos

Doctoral work translates into patents for IT&E alumni

By Rey Banks

Clausen and Wechsler

Fractal image compression, algorithms, lean domain pools—for those not in computer science, these terms may sound confusing, but they actually are technologies that are used every day. And thanks to Clifford Clausen, PhD Information Technology '99, and Harry Wechsler, professor of computer science, they are now easier to use.

Clausen and Wechsler have created a method for compressing images for which they have received a patent. Their method of fractal image compression requires less computer disk storage, which allows images to be transmitted faster over the Internet. Initial experiments suggest the quality of this fractal image compression approach is superior to JPEG, a standardized image compression mechanism.

Research that began in 2000 while Clausen was a student working with Wechsler resulted in the issuance of the patent four years later. "It was Professor Wechsler's suggestion for my dissertation project that got me going in this direction," says Clausen, who now works for the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. "With his help, I was able to develop the working software that proved the benefits of reinforcement learning in relation to fractal image compression."

Liu and Wechsler

Wechsler and Chengjun Liu, PhD Information Technology '99, received a patent for their work in feature-based classification, an application more commonly known for its use in facial recognition technology. Facial recognition falls into a larger group of technologies known as biometrics, which use personal information to verify identity.

"Facial recognition methods vary, but they generally involve a series of steps that capture and measure points of your face and compare those results to a database of stored images," says Wechsler. Face recognition is largely motivated by the need for surveillance, security, and telecommunication. But other uses can include human–computer interaction and smart environments.

Feature-based classification isn't yet perfect. Facial features change and accuracy can be affected by illumination, aging, and people's attempts to fool the system through disguise. Wechsler and Liu's invention is an important step in the process of perfecting the ability of computers to recognize facial images. Liu is now an assistant professor of computer science at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

McIntyre and Hintz

The research of Kenneth Hintz, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Gregory McIntyre, PhD Information Technology '99, resulted in Mason's 16th patent to date. Their invention identifies and implements the most effective allocation of system resources through a series of mathematical computations. Their information-directed sensor management system can determine a task, select one of several functions capable of completing the task, and identify the appropriate sensors needed to perform the task. Sensor management relies completely on value-weighted computations for decision making, thereby removing guesswork.

"It's all resource management," says Hintz. "How do you determine in any given situation what is the best use of your resources? Our system, through a series of quantitative information measures, can determine that more easily and accurately. Simply put, it is the mathematical automation of intuitiveness."

What is not simple is the process of applying for and obtaining a patent, say Hintz and McIntyre. Their patent was awarded six years after the initial provisional application was submitted. During that time, the inventors went back and forth several times with the patent office on details, clarifications, and changes that resulted in the final award.

The university benefits from the researchers' persistence. Technology giant Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has entered into a contract with the university to collaborate on uses for this new invention.

And there's more to come: Hintz and McIntyre are about to receive a second patent for another invention that will work in conjunction with their patented sensor management system.