At NJIT, Craig Gotsman is best known as dean of Ying Wu College of Computing. Within the scientific community, he is better known as the inventor of a number of cutting-edge software technologies for manipulating 3D geometric data, enabling their use in a variety of applications. Many of these technologies have been patented and commercialized, some through startup companies, which Gotsman founded — spinoffs of his academic research. In recognition of these achievements, Gotsman has been named a Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for 2018.
Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional accolade bestowed to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.
“Our world is three-dimensional, and traditional photography captures only two of these three dimensions. Capturing the third dimension as geometric information and processing it to provide new types of ‘images’ and insights is what computer graphics and geometric modeling is all about,” says Gotsman of his work. “This information is key in computer-aided design and manufacturing, architecture, animation, visualization and even in gaming.”
One of Gotsman’s most recent inventions takes advantage of the new generation of 3D cameras, those that produce depth information per pixel, on top of the usual color information. Such cameras now feature in some of the more advanced smartphones on the market. With colleagues from ETH Zurich, Gotsman developed a process to reconstruct and track facial imagery in the output of such cameras, and then use sophisticated real-time processing of the 3D data embedded in the video stream to enhance the user experience in a video conferencing setup. This academic work was patented and spun off through a startup company, recently acquired by the largest tech company in the world for use in smartphone apps.
Gotsman’s entrepreneurial activity spans more than 20 years. One of his first inventions relates to the compact representation of 3D geometric data. Notoriously voluminous, compression is vital to being able to rapidly communicate such data sets online. Realizing this, Gotsman and Touma developed in 1997 a 3D compression technology which is still considered the gold standard. It was patented, incorporated into the MPEG-4 industry standard and served as the basis for a startup company co-founded by Gotsman. The technology is now used by NVIDIA in their graphics processing units.
Gotsman joined NJIT as Distinguished Professor and Dean in 2017. Prior to that, he was one of the founders of Cornell Tech, a joint venture between Technion and Cornell University in New York City dedicated to generating entrepreneurial engineers to grow the tech sector in the city. He was also the founding director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech. Until 2012, Gotsman served as the Hewlett Packard Professor of Computer Engineering at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was elected to the Academy of Europe in 2015.
“I am honored and humbled,” says Gotsman. “The NAI brings together a breed of academics who put their ideas to work in the real world. They are making a difference and that’s what really counts.”
Gotsman is among 148 renowned academic inventors named Fellows of the NAI this year, who together are responsible for nearly 4,000 U.S. patents. They will be inducted into the Academy next April at a ceremony at the Space Center in Houston, TX.