“Engineous” encounters

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Control sensors that know every house’s real energy expenses, high security systems, home cinema, wireless band width communications inside the houses, led usage in new contexts such as streets and car headlights and software solutions for the reconstruction of faces from bone remains.

These are only some of the examples of what can be achieved from getting together professionals coming from all the different areas of telecommunication technologies and computing focusing on domotics engineering, optical engineering and virtual reality applications with the aim to facilitate the life of building users, optimize energy consumption and offer new services through the exploitation of virtual reality.

This is what they do at CeDInt, the R&D centre of the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid of Madrid directed since its beginning, in 2004, by telecommunications engineer Asunción Santamaría.

“The idea of creating an institute of this kind comes from the will of converging the knowledge of different experts into a transversal structure so that they can collaborate in a wider project aiming to offer solutions to sectors that until now haven’t experienced IT penetration in their businesses”, Santamaría says.

Since its official inauguration last month, CeDInt’s goals seem even closer. Its new building, located in the Science and Technology Park of the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid, just outside the city, hosts in fact the first Virtual Reality Cave of Five Faces in Southern Europe.

The cave, boosted by the UPM (Universidad Politécnica of Madrid) and T-Systems (services subsidiary for Deutsche Telekom’s companies) is where medicine, psychology, engineering, architecture, heritage reconstruction, videogames, entertainment and all the areas of simulation meet. The virtual cave is a sort of room with five glass walls having a camera settled in each of its four corners. The technique is the one used in 3D movies.  Two computer-based images are constantly shown through different cameras which are tuned with the sensorized glasses users need to wear. Each eye can see one image, which gives users the feeling of depth. A remote control allowing surfing in real time inside the applications and an audio system are also part of the environment.

The images shown go from heritage building reconstruction, air landscapes, medical reconstruction images showing surgical transformations in advance (prosthesis and jaw’s reconstruction among others) to training applications for phobias such as vertigo. All in a cheaper and safer environment than it would result from setting up the experiment.

“What distinguishes CeDInt from other research centres is that what we do here is a really applied research that wants to achieve commercial impact in the short and middle term so that our country can have an industry standing out in some field of technology”, Santamaría points out.

Around 50 researchers (10 of them are women) work at CeDInt.

“One of my biggest lucks here is that I am surrounded by people who are much cleverer than I am and who totally trust me”, Santamaría says. “When I have to take tough decisions I can always rely on them”.

As mother of two teenage sons and as a “downright supporter of teleworking” Santamaría takes advantages of the short compulsory daily presence at CeDInt (four hours in the morning) to be able to do both jobs without big difficulties.

The ones she does have while carrying out her job can be resumed with the Latin expression “nemo propheta in patria sua” (no one is a prophet in his or her own country) and the feeling that without recognition from outside it is very hard to be appreciated in one’s country.  But she and her team have been clear since the beginning about what they were doing. Now, also thanks to the virtual cave where to experiment with new practical applications many Spanish companies the public opinion too are starting to realize that great potentials are sometimes closer than one might think.

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