A driver looking for an empty parking spot and a car park with available spaces — it is a match made in heaven. Yet every seasoned driver will undoubtedly have experienced the frustration of not finding parking speedily enough, or on a particularly bad day, not at all.
Prompted by this all too common occurrence, three NYU Abu Dhabi students put their minds together to develop a system through which drivers are alerted to the nearest car park with available spaces through the use of computer vision and algorithms.
The project was first conceptualized by Hala Halaseh, NYUAD Class of 2014, in her spring 2012 Inventions course. Halaseh then collaborated with fellow junior Katy Blumer and sophomore Umair Ahsan on the project, which extended into the summer, alongside NYU New York researchers George Chaidos and Haiwei Dong. In addition to providing the opportunity for teamwork, it allowed the students to apply their theoretical learning to a practical challenge.
Recently, Blumer traveled to Doha to present a paper on their findings at the 19th International Conference on Neural Information Processing. "The paper we presented was mainly on the algorithm we used to figure out which spots were empty, given a video camera feed," Blumer explained.
Blumer traveled with Xiaohua Liu, NYUAD Class of 2014, who also presented a paper on his research project with fellow junior Haoran Liang. The pair developed a "conversational calculator," which can process questions spoken to it through a speech recognition device. The calculator then deciphers what was said and offloads computations to online database Wolfram Alpha. The students also collaborated with Chaidos and Dong on this project.
Both students reported that their papers were well received and that the feedback was positive. For Liu, presenting at an academic conference for the first time was a "particularly memorable and rewarding experience." He said, "The conference introduced me to many interesting ideas, and it also gave me the opportunity to make connections with researchers from all over the world."
While both projects have been sidelined for the time being, we drivers can hope that their findings will catch on and maybe spur the creation of a speech recognition, car park-finder device. Alas, we can only hope!