Hello and thanks for joining us on the new ACM Computers in Entertainment website. “Researchers in CiE” is a regularly published column showcasing the new “Who's Who” in the exciting field of computers in entertainment. Join us every month as we talk with academic and industry researchers from across the globe. Learn not only what people are researching, but also what motivates them, their successes and failures, the roads travelled to get to where they are, and their hopes and aspirations for the future.
Jeffrey Tzu Kwan Valino Koh: Tell us a bit about your background. Where did you grow up and what was that like?
Roshan Lalintha Peiris: I grew up in Sri Lanka, close to Colombo in a nice quiet neighborhood.
JK: Did you go to school in Sri Lanka?
RP: Up until my bachelor's I studied in Sri Lanka. I studied at the University of Moratuwa (http://www.mrt.ac.lk/) focusing on electrical engineering.
JK: What made you interested in pursuing an academic career in engineering?
RP: Since I was a kid I was always interested in making things. I was especially interested in robotics. My father is also an engineer so it was a natural course for me.
JK: What kind of engineering is your father in?
RP: Chemical. He does projects focusing on the environment.
JK: When you were younger, what was the first thing you built?
RP: Do you know the knight-rider circuit? That was the first thing I built. I went for this radio electronics class near my home. I was one of the youngest students, but in that class we built a lot of circuits. I got a lot of exposure to engineering this days and it was really inspiring.
JK: You’re now doing a Ph.D. at NUS (National University of Singapore). Did you start right after your degree or did you work in between?
RP: No I started work at the MXR Lab soon after my bachelor’s as a research engineer. That was quite a quick decision. I went to visit a friend who was interning at the lab. Once I saw the type of work they were doing I thought, "This is exactly what I want to do" and submitted my application shortly there after.
JK: What do you feel is the difference between working in an academic lab is compared to a commercial one?
RP: Well, in comparison to my internship experience, which was at an electrical company, I find the work in this field much more interesting and challenging. It maybe due to the nature of my position at the company—I did not do much innovative work, it was more repetitious work. However at the MXR Lab I have worked on so many different kinds of wacky projects with each one needing a different solution. So this kind of work always keeps me on my toes, so to speak. I have always liked to work in this sort of challenging environment.
JK: In terms of CiE, what kind of projects have you personally worked on that contribute to the CiE community?
RP: In terms of CiE I think my project Ambikraf contributes well to this field. It is a project that focuses on developing color-changing fabric technology. The main innovation of this technology is that we present a way to make the actual fabric itself change color and thereby allow subtle ambient animations on the fabric. I have already done a few prototypes, which range from decorative wall hangings to animated tablecloths. Due to the ambient nature of this project I was recently able to combine this technology with traditional Japanese fabric art called byobu. Due to the unique combination of the art and technology in this piece we were able to demonstrate this work at the Ars Electronica in 2010 and at a few other academic conferences. Our next goal is to make this technology wearable so that the dynamic of future wearables completely transforms how we wear our clothes in the next generation.
JK: What trends take prominence in this field? How do you see the next years, the next decades of CiE? What technologies, interactions, and behavioral models shape the way computers effect entertainment?
RP: This is a very important question. One of the key trends that I notice in this field is the work is not limited to a single particular field. The submissions include a diverse range of fields from artists to engineers to social scientists. And it's the combination of these fields that makes successful work, as it allows us to explore the boundaries of one field through the eyes of another. If you really think about it, some of the key interaction technologies are probably not so new—maybe even existed for years— but it's the combination of these technologies with proper supporting sciences that puts them into the right context that makes these technologies a breakthrough. Hence, I think this trend is important as it is will continue in the pursuit of exploring newer and better ways of furthering CiE.
JK: In one sentence or less, what would you personally like to see develop in the world of CiE?
RP: I would like to see us breaking the barrier between people and technology or in other words interact with technology in a natural, seamless way as we would interact with each other in the real world.