Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen wants to use computer vision to help change the world and society for the better while developing a product he is proud of.

“Over the last hundred years or so, our quality of life has risen rapidly, and technology has been the driving force behind those improvements. We can now do things that were impossible in 1901, things that couldn’t be imagined. I want to help contribute towards technologies that mean that people in 2050 will be able to do things that were impossible and weren’t even imagined in 2001. Making people’s lives easier so that they can individually and collectively achieve more leads to better life outcomes for everyone.

From a young age I have been interested in how we can make robots and computers perceive the world the way humans do. Vision is one of our most critical senses; by some estimates we receive 80% of all information about our external environment from our eyes.

“Computer vision has been an active research area for decades, but the majority of algorithm development has taken place in a theoretical context, with powerful desktop computers and no time limitations. In order to put these algorithms into the real world, we need to consider how to maintain high levels of accuracy in resource constrained and real-time environments. My research looks at embedded vision, which involves implementing algorithms in computationally efficient ways so that standalone devices such as smart cameras can become part of the next generation of sensor systems.

“Doing a PhD gave me the opportunity to do more focused research in an area that really interests me in a safe environment. I was already familiar with the staff, students and processes here already, and I knew there was a lot of room for personal growth and opportunities like teaching and community engagement. I was excited about having the freedom to take control and responsibility for my own work, and finding my own path towards contributing to wider society.

“The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship I received also helped direct me towards postgraduate study instead of the workforce. Without the scholarship, I don’t think I would have been able to do a PhD. Having that scholarship means that I don’t need to worry as much about money or income, and can focus more of my energies towards research and supporting teaching in the University. It’s not as much as I would be earning if I was in the workforce, but it’s enough to survive on at my existing standard of living.

“My supervisors have been great – they provide not just guidance for my research but are also adept at navigating the university environment and can open doors and opportunities for me. They provide good moral support and encourage me to keep going when things get tough.

“I’d tell other students there are a lot of opportunities if you look for them, and there is a really diverse multicultural environment with students from all over the world. It’s hard work sometimes but I enjoy coming back to research each day and having control over my own future.”