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November 6, 2014: People of ACM: Roberto Scopigno

Today's Topic: People of ACM: Roberto Scopigno

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Roberto Scopigno is a Research Director at ISTI (Instituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione), an Institute of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Pisa, and leads the Visual Computer Lab.

A graduate in Computer Science from the University of Pisa, he has been involved in Computer Graphics throughout his career. He is currently engaged in several European and national research projects concerned with multi-resolution data modeling and rendering, 3D digitization, scientific visualization, geometry processing, and applications to Cultural Heritage.

Scopigno has published more than 200 papers in international refereed journals/conferences. Currently Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Computer Graphics Forum.

He is recipient of several awards, including the Distinguished Career Award of the EUROGRAPHICS Association, and the EG Outstanding Technical Contribution Award.



What is the scope of your initiative to make a digital model of the Madonna of Pietranico and as part of your project to digitize cultural heritage?

The Madonna di Pietranico was an excellent testbed for experimenting with the adoption of new technologies in the framework of a restoration project. This terracotta Madonna, broken in pieces in the 2009 Abruzzi earthquake, was restored using 3D graphics technology in multiple phases of the restoration: to assist restorers in the recombination of the pieces (solving the recombination puzzle); to support physical reassembly (using 3D printing); and in producing a virtual restoration of the original polychrome surface. The restoration is narrated in a video which can be viewed here. The impressive results came from a very tight collaboration among researchers, art historians and restorers.

What factors led you to develop a tool for remote exploration of images in a 3D environment, which are designed to help crisis managers and first responders during emergency operations?

We were thrilled by the idea of mixing different media in the same rendering context, pioneered by the Microsoft's Photosynth system. Why keep different media isolated and independent? In many cases, using different modalities opens new insight opportunities. We have experimented with that approach in the framework of Cultural Heritage (CH) applications as well as for the design of crisis management systems. In these cases, sampling the current status with photographs is much faster and convenient, but it is also important to keep photographs immersed in a 3D representation of the sampled scene. We are also experimenting with a tighter integration of visual media (3D or 2D) with the more consolidated textual media.

How does your role as Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH) impact on your own research projects?

Editing an international journal costs time and effort (in many cases, spent shepherding reviewers…) and consequently, it is an activity often conflicting with personal research activity (since time is a finite resource). Anyway, the ACM JOCCH focus is a new interdisciplinary domain, now usually called Digital Humanities. The role of the journal can be foundational in this domain and I am proud to contribute to a process that should consolidate JOCCH as the reference journal on this topic.

As a renowned innovator in the European technology community, what advice would you give to young people considering careers in computing?

I think that the scope of JOCCH is a wonderful domain of activity for young researchers or ICT professionals. We have only scratched the tip of the iceberg: ICT technologies can bring huge contributions to conservation, restoration, education and fruition of our Cultural Heritage. There are wide opportunities for both academia and companies to innovate and to design new systems. Also dissemination of results for the wide public is a partially unexplored field.