25 March 2011
International human body simulation expert, Professor Nadia Thalmann, gives guest lecture at BU.
Nothing demonstrates the NCCA’s motto of merging science and art quite like the work demonstrated by Professor Nadia Thalmann in her guest lecture ‘Simulating the complexities of human bodies’.
Professor Thalmann is a world leader in animation and visited BU last week as part of the University’s 2011 lecture series. Her impressive resumé boasts six degrees, including a PhD in Quantum Physics, and a wealth of experience developing human body simulation with MIRALAb at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
In her lecture Professor Thalmann showed NCCA students her remarkable project called Virtual Try On, which allows people to interactively try on different clothes. Users customise an animated figure to reflect their own face and body shape in order to give a true depiction of how the clothes would look.
“This has been my dream for five years,” said Professor Thalmann, who showcased the technology in Singapore at the weekend. “The idea is that people use their phone or computer to try on clothes. They interactively give their dimensions, choose the clothes and they will see themselves animated. In the future you could add it to Facebook and ask friends, ‘How do I look?’”
But what became apparent throughout the lecture was Professor Thalmann’s strong desire to use her skills and intellect to help others and she dedicated a large part of her lecture to developments in animation and the medical profession.
"You think, how can I do my work which is a bit more useful? With medical work you have the impression that you can help and that people will be healthier. It’s more important," she said.
Professor Thalmann talked through some of the different areas of medical research undertaken at MIRALab, including the use of MRI equipment to animate what is inside the human body, such as muscles, bones and soft tissue.
At MIRALab they are currently using this technique to research why ballerinas experience hip problems in later life. Using animated 3D footage it’s hoped doctors will be able to determine whether the problems are caused by repetitive movement, pressure or something else.
Animation for medical purposes is certainly something close to the heart of Professor Jian Zhang at Bournemouth University’s NCCA. He is currently working with a team of researchers to develop software to simulate a medical operation, with animated soft tissue, organs and touch sensitive tools that accurately portray the look and feel of surgery.
As Professor Thalmann herself commented, “I always believe in joint work.” So it’s hoped her influence at BU and the partnership with MIRALab will continue, with results that could revolutionise the medical profession.