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Focus 1999

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Building virtual environments with reality-based modelling
Dinesh Pai's research is breaking
new ground in real-time sound &
object deformation simulation
If virtual reality is to be more real than
virtual, then objects must not only look
realistic, but sound and feel realistic as well.
Dinesh Pai has taken on this challenge-the
CICSR member's work in reality-based
modelling is helping to flesh out virtual
environments, and to improve the feel of
human-machine interfaces that require the
real-time simulation of remote or virtual
"I want to build rich computational
models of the physical world," says Pai, an
associate professor of Computer Science
who specializes in computational robotics.
"Models that are based on actual measure-
ments-this is the reality part-and that can
support interactive simulation."
Extending virtual reality
"The idea," explains Pai, "is that, in the
near future, in any sort of virtual environment, you will not only see a 3d object, but
also be able to pick it up and feel it. And
when you put the object down it will make
a realistic sound. You'll be able to interact
with these environments."
The realistic models and interfaces Pai
and his team are creating will have an
impact on everything from computer games
to training simulations to microsurgery.
The technology could also be used, for
example, in the remote assembly of
industrial components over the Internet.
Reality-based modelling starts with the
measurement of real objects, and the
capture of contact feedback and audio
characteristics. Pai is leading a team of
faculty, staff, and students that is developing
ACME, the Active Measuring facility. The
team includes students Doug James, Jochen
Lang, Derek Difilippo, Paul Kry and Josh
ACME is an integrated system that
includes a robot arm to capture contact
data, a 5 degree-of-freedom field measurement system that measures the sound and
continued on page 2
Fall 1999 Vol. 10, No. 2
Self-test microchip 3
Aligning information systems 4
Improved lumber grading 5
Bob Evans 6
Passing Notes 7
Distinguished Lecture Series 8 The academic year begins again,
which means it is time for CICSR's
1 lth annual Distinguished Lecture
Series. We have another great line-up
of speakers, so be sure to read the
poster that accompanies this issue of
FOCUS. (The speakers and dates are
also found on page 8.)
In this issue we profile the
innovative work of four CICSR
members. The common thread is
their collaborative approach to
research-many of them work in teams
to solve their research problems.
Dinesh Pai is leading a team into
virtual territory; Peter Lawrence's
group is improving sawmill performance; Yair Wand and Carson Woo
are investigating the relationship
between organizations and their
information systems; and Andre
Ivanov is developing self-testing
We also pay a tribute to Bob
Evans, who steps down as head of
UBC's Mechanical Engineering
department. I have enjoyed working
with Bob in my role as CICSR
director, and thank him for his
contributions over the years.
Lastly, don't forget to note that the
National Science Foundation's Year
2000 conference will be held here in
Vancouver, January 3-6. CICSR
member Yusuf Altintas is co-chair of
the proceedings.
Rabab Ward, CICSR Director
Virtual environment, continued from page 1
light field around an object, and a laser
range measurement system. The ACME
system also permits remote modelling, so
that researchers can interact with ACME
over the Internet.
Real-time simulation
With measurements obtained through
ACME, Pai can then build accurate models
of objects and their
characteristics. He is
particularly interested
in the real-time
simulation of the
sounds and forces
produced by contact,
since these provide
important perceptual
cues for users
interacting with
simulated objects.
Over the past 4
years, Pai and his
team have developed a framework for the
simulation of sounds caused by the contact
or collision of physical objects in a virtual
reality environment.
"The framework is based on the
vibration dynamics of bodies," says Pai.
"The computed sounds depend on the
body's material, its shape and the contact
These simulated sounds give a user
important auditory cues that lend a larger
sense of reality to the objects in the virtual
environment. Another important sense-cue
is object deformation.
In recent years, huge advances in
simulating 3d objects have been made. But
much of that work has focussed on the
shape and texture of objects. And shape, as
Pai points out, is only the beginning.
"You want to know what an object feels
like," he says. "If it's a soft object and you
push on it, how does it behave?"
One potential application of deformation simulation is surgical training. Medical
Dinesh Pai
students could practise surgical procedures
on computer-modelled tissues that deform
as students cut them with virtual scalpels.
Real-time simulation of object deformation, however, is far more difficult than
sound simulation because the act of
deforming an elastic object is computationally expensive. But one of Pai's
doctoral students, Doug James, has
developed a highly
efficient method for
deformable object
simulation that was
presented at
past August.
Industry support
Pai, who is a
past ASI fellow,
has enjoyed steady
industry support.
Partners include
Point Grey Research and International
Submarine in BC; Haptic Technology Inc.;
MPB Technologies in Montreal; and
Virtual Technologies in Palo Alto, Ca.
"They've been supporting us with their
equipment," says Pai, noting that Virtual
Technologies has loaned his group
CyberGloves, and Point Grey Research has
contributed trinocular stereo systems.
International Submarine was interested
in Pai's research because it builds robotic
arms for submarines and the Canadian
space agency. Now CICSR is trying to
combine that company's interest in
telerobotics with Pai's research in reality-
based modelling. And Virtual Technologies
wants to see how deformable object
simulation can be plugged in with its
"In a sense," says Pai, "we are pioneering
these technologies."
For more information, contact Dinesh
Pai at pai@cs.ubc.ca or (604) 822-8197.
FOCUS Self-test part of microchip revolution
Andre Ivanov develops built-in self-test technology
for the next generation of microelectronic devices
Exponential growth in the complexity and
functionality of microchips is the norm in
the microelectronics industry. Moore's Law
states that the number of transistors on a
microchip doubles every 18 months. Today
there are 21 million transistors on a typical
microprocessor chip; in 2012 the Semiconductor Industry Association predicts that
number will grow to 1.4 billion.
This warp-speed growth creates enormous pressure on chip manufacturers, as
market demand threatens to outstrip their
ability to design and test fault-free microchips and quickly bring them to market in a
cost-effective manner.
Andre Ivanov, an expert in integrated
microelectronics engineering (IME) is
helping to relieve that pressure by developing IME test tools and techniques that will
save chip manufacturers time and money.
Ivanov, a CICSR member and associate
professor of Electrical and Computer
Engineering, develops special circuits and
CAD tools that verify digital, analog and
mixed-signal circuits. His most recent work
focuses on new testing techniques such as
built-in self-test (BIST) and its use in
emerging system-on-a-chip (SOC)
Microchip manufacturing is an imperfect process, and random defects are a
reality. Testing is a vital step in the manufacturing process as it detect faults; but the
automatic testing equipment (ATE) that
manufacturers use to test chips is very
expensive to buy and run. And since chip
designs change so quickly, manufacturers
struggle to keep testing technology abreast
of microchip development while amortizing
their current ATE investment.
"It's a losing battle," says Ivanov. "Testers
are required to verify and test state-of-the-
art circuits—but how can they keep ahead
of state-of-the-art when the testers are built
from the same technology? It's a moving
"And it doesn't make sense for testing to
be more expensive than design and manufacture," adds Ivanov, a past ASI fellow.
This frustration was the impetus for
BIST. Over the years, researchers have
mulled over the possibility of self-testing
circuits that would eliminate the bottleneck
and expense of ATE testing.
But chip designers, until recently, could
not afford to allocate any circuitry on their
chips to a BIST function. With transistors
now numbering in the millions on a single
chip, BIST functionality is today a practical
State-of-the-art testing
"A big advantage is that BIST allows for
state-of-the-art testing," explains Ivanov.
"By having the technology test itself, the
testing keeps pace with the latest developments in chip design."
This includes system-on-a-chip (SOC)
technology, another focus of Ivanov's work.
SOCs are portable miniature systems that
fit on a single microchip. SOC applications
run the gamut from household appliances
to life-critical, in-body devices such as
pacemakers or micropumps that regulate
in-body medicine delivery.
"SOC is the enabling technology for
tomorrow's systems," says Ivanov. "But how
do you figure out what's wrong with a
miniaturized microelectronic or
micromechanical system? You can't reverse
engineer or diagnose it. That's why self-test
and monitoring are so important."
Ivanov is currently developing a BIST
circuit that will monitor the power supply
for portable low-power devices.
"There's a demand for low-power
electronic gadgets with more and more
features," explains Ivanov. "But battery
capacity has not kept pace with the
evolution in electronics."
The BIST chip is designed to optimize
battery power and detect faults on- and offline. Ivanov hopes the chip will make
electronic devices more reliable and sees it
as having particular utility in life-critical
applications, such as pacemakers, where
power supply monitoring is vital.
New areas of development
To Ivanov, BIST and SOC promise to
open new areas of microelectronics development. A chip in an automobile, for
example, could test itself and communicate
the resulting diagnostics to the manufacturer. Self-diagnosis could lead to self-
repair, an innovation that Ivanov believes
would usher in an era of ultra-reliable
microelectronics-based systems.
"We're living a revolution," he says.
"Everything is going to be riding on SOCs.
And if you build in self-testing, you can
build the product correctly and cost-
effectively and get it to market on time,"
says Ivanov.
Ivanov has strong support from the
microelectronics industry including
Canadian Microelectronics Corporation,
the BC Advanced Systems Institute,
Micronet, and PMC Sierra.
Andre Ivanov can be reached at
ivanov@ece.ubc.ca or at (604) 822-6936.
Fall 99 Aligning
systems with
business goals
Yair Wand and Carson Woo developed
a new method of object-oriented
enterprise modelling and are using it
to help organizations change during
competitive times.
Most organizations now depend on
computers to automate business tasks such
as order processing and customer billing.
Sophisticated computerization, however,
can create difficulties for organizations
when it comes time for them to change or
"reengineer," an inevitable occurrence in
today's competitive business environment.
The need to adapt existing systems can
become an obstacle to successful change. As
well, organizations often acquire packaged
systems that do not fit well with their
business model, thus imposing system
implementation considerations on business
decisions. To Carson Woo and Yair Wand,
this is like putting the cart before the horse.
Unique method
Woo and Wand are associate members of
CICSR and professors of Management
Information Systems (MIS) in the Faculty
of Commerce. Their specialty is the use of
models to support the analysis, design and
construction of information systems (IS).
Dissatisfied with traditional methods of
systems analysis, they have developed a
unique method of object-oriented enterprise modelling (OOEM) to help businesses
align their information systems with their
business goals.
"What we advocate is using the business
model as a guide to developing information
systems," says Woo. "Our overall goal is to
promote a better fit between the business
and its information systems, and to reduce
the time and resources needed to develop
information systems."
Carson Woo
Wand and Woo approach the problem
by breaking it into three steps. First, they
construct an organization's business model,
i.e. a description of its mission, and
products and services. Second, from the
business model, they derive the "ideal" IS
architecture. Third, they reverse-engineer
existing or proposed information systems
into the underlying business model by
linking existing system components to
business functions.
True needs of an organization
This process enables them to conduct a
"match-gap" analysis between the true
needs of the organization (as implied by the
business model) and pre-existing components (whether part of the current information systems portfolio or a new, proposed
package). This analysis can then be used to
guide the adaptation process, to support
reusability and to evaluate the appropriateness of new IS solutions.
Wand and Woo found that existing
object-oriented methods lacked precise rules
for modelling enterprises. Borrowing from
ontology, the branch of philosophy that
considers models of reality, they derived a
clearer definition for the role of objects in
modelling and a set of rules for constructing enterprise models.
"We have tested and improved OOEM
over the last six years through instruction,
graduate research, and practical large-scale
application," says Wand. "We have found
Yair Wand
the approach useful in constructing
unambiguous, easy-to-understand models
of both an enterprise and its IS architecture. "
The new approach allows for an IS
evaluation in terms of business needs and
processes, rather than by an exhaustive
examination of system features. Shifting the
focus from IS details to the bigger business
picture has the potential of making
companies faster on their feet when it
comes to re-engineering business processes,
introducing new products and services, or
migrating to new information systems.
Obvious and essential
"People say later, 'it is so obvious we
should have thought about it sooner,'" says
Woo. "What essentially matters is the
business rather than specific implementation details."
Wand and Woo have successfully applied
their novel approach to companies in the
telecommunications and oil industries
where competition and change is intense.
Woo recently completed a sabbatical at
BC Tel Mobility in Vancouver, BC, where
he introduced that company to the OOEM
approach.  He and Wand are hoping to
garner support from other companies who
are beginning to show interest in their
enterprise modelling method.
Yair Wand is at (604) 822-8395 and
yair.wand@ubc.ca; Carson Woo is at
(604) 822-8390 and carson.woo@ubc.ca
FOCUS Speeding and improving lumber grading
A CICSR team led by Peter Lawrence is working with CAE Newnes Ltd.
to develop the latest generation of automated lumber grading systems
The next generation of automated lumber
grading machines will soon be on the job,
thanks to a Precarn-supported project by a
CICSR research team and its industrial
CICSR member Peter Lawrence is
leading the UBC component of a team that
is designing a more effective automatic
lumber grading system along with CAE
Newnes Ltd. of Salmon Arm, BC.
Cross-disciplinary team
The CICSR team is a cross-disciplinary
group that draws on the talents of 7
researchers: Professors Lawrence from
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Gary
Schajer, from Mechanical Engineering,
Dave Barrett, of Wood Science, and Frank
Lam, also of Wood Science. The team also
includes Hossein Saboksayr, a CICSR
graduate student, Wilson Lau, a Wood
Science graduate student, and Greg Grudic,
a consultant and former graduate student in
Electrical and Computer Engineering.
CAE Newnes is one of the world's
leading manufacturers of automated
sawmilling and woodprocessing equipment.
The company pioneered automated grading
with an x-ray system that sorted boards
faster and more accurately than the human
Benefits of accurate grading
Fast, accurate board grading has two
major benefits. It speeds wood processing
and increases economic return by singling
out strong, high-value boards. These boards
are streamed into the fabrication of valuable
products such as engineered beams and
Now the CICSR team is bringing
lumber grading into the digital age by
combining advanced digital signal processing and microwave technology to improve
the x-ray system. The new system, which
CAE Newnes plans to build and market,
will bring automated grading up to mill
speed while improving grading accuracy.
The system is designed to run unattended on a production line. As boards
come out of the sawmill they are bumped
into sequence past a scanner which uses
sensors to measure each board for density,
slope-of-grain and knot location. The
measurements are then computed to make a
strength estimate of each board. This
estimate is matched against a database that
assigns the board its grade and finally prints
it on the lumber.
The research team's major challenge is
combining accurate grading with high
board throughput. With sawmills running
at speeds of up to 2,000 board feet per
minute the system has to scan, analyze and
match board data at a remarkable rate.
Team expertise
The team draws on the wide-ranging
expertise of its members to solve the
problem. Lam and Barrett contributed their
knowledge of wood strength and mechanics, while Schajer's expertise in microwave
technology and Lawrence's digital signal
processing experience tackled the data
analysis side of the problem.
"It's a project that is exceptionally
multidisciplinary," says Lawrence, a past
ASI fellow. "We've tapped into the knowledge base of CICSR people and others to
make this happen."
The team relies on statistical methods
and functional approximation theory to
build a system that will successfully and
quickly capture and classify a large number
of measurements. The classification scheme
is being refined and simplified by
Saboksayr. A neural network is being
engineered so the system can train itself
to learn board characteristics and build a
database. Board information will be
supplied on a CD-ROM as a system
The system promises to significantly
improve the return on graded lumber.
Landmark Truss & Lumber of Abbotsford,
BC will be a testbed site for the new
"It's a classic case of adding value to our
important timber resource," says Frank Lam.
The $1.4-million project is being funded
by CAE Newnes and Precarn Associates,
and will be completed by March 2000.
Peter Lawrence can be reached at
peterl@ece.ubc.ca and (604) 822-5934.
Fall 99 Evans ends term as head of Mechanical Engineering
When Bob Evans, of Mechanical Engineering, was asked what he looked forward to as
he prepared to step down as head of the
department, he answered with one word:
"I'm looking forward to having time for
reading, writing and generally catching up
with my research work," he added. "And
having more time to spend with my family."
Evans has been head of the department
for five years and before that was associate
dean of Engineering Student Services for
"Over the last five years Bob Evans has
provided exemplary service to the Faculty of
Applied Science," says Michael Isaacson,
dean of Applied Science. "He has taken the
department through some very positive
One of those changes was bringing new
faculty members into the department.
"We have made some outstanding
appointments of young faculty members
who will lead our department well into the
next century," says Evans.
"I believe that faculty renewal is one of
the most important tasks that a department
head can take on."
He also oversaw equipment and course
Bob Evans: "He has taken the department
through some very positive changes."
improvements in the undergraduate
program. Over the past five years, the
department has upgraded its undergraduate
laboratories, and introduced a one-week
undergraduate machine-shop practice
course that has been well received by
Budgetary issues are a constant source of
difficulty for university administrators, and
Evans has had to face his share. "We have
continued to see reductions in our operating budget each year, with the resulting loss
of both faculty and staff positions."
Evans credits CICSR with helping to
lessen some of that financial burden, and
contributing to the continuing success of
the Mechanical Engineering department
despite its budgetary setbacks.
"CICSR has had a very positive impact
on our department," he says. "Through the
faculty appointments and operating funds
made available by CICSR we have been
able to greatly strengthen our research
activities in the areas of controls, robotics
and manufacturing."
As for the future, Evans sees the department consolidating its position as one of
the strongest ME departments in Canada.
"We have an extensive and varied
program of research and a very solid
teaching reputation," he says."I think we
will see more team-work as our faculty
members join together to move to the next
level in their research activities."
The department itself has moved to a
new level, thanks to Evans's leadership.
Dean Isaacson sums it up: "We are all
deeply grateful to Bob for his invaluable
National Science Foundation's Year 2000
conference to be held in Vancouver
Vancouver will be the host city for the National Science Foundation's annual Design and Manufacturing Research Conference. This international
conference will be held January 3-6, 2000, at the Vancouver Convention
Centre. The conference features current research and provides a focused gathering for the best design and manufacturing researchers in North America.
The conference is being co-chaired by CICSR's Yusuf Altintas (ME) and
the University of Washington's Tony Woo. Sponsors include the US-based
NSF, Canada's NSERC and NRC, and Mexico's CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia). After the conference on
January 7 and 8, UBC will host two related events: a Symposium on Design Engineering and Education in Canada, and an NSF/
CONTACyT/NSERC Trilateral Workshop on Environmental Design Engineering. Elizabeth Croft is the local chair for these events.
Go to http://deed.uwindsor.ca/~deed/deedOO/ for more information. For more information about the NSF Year 2000 conference,
see http://www.engr.washington.edu/~uw-epp/nsf/.
FOCUS CICSR Passing Notes
New CICSR member
Sander Calisal of
Mechanical Engineering (ME) joins CICSR
as a new member.
Calisal's research
interests are ship
hydrodynamics and
experimental naval architecture, and the
application of computer technology to ship
design. Current research projects include a
study of the safety of small craft and ferries,
which is been performed in cooperation
with a group of researchers at the ME naval
architecture laboratory and the BC Research Institute towing tank. Calisal's work
with Dale Cherchas was profiled in the last
issue of FOCUS.
New Master of Software
Systems program
This new program is designed for
students with Bachelor degrees in
areas such as the mathematical and
physical sciences, operations research
and engineering (other than computer
science and computer engineering).
The program's duration is 16 months
and is composed of 30 credits taken in
3 semesters and a 4-month industry
internship. For more information,
please visit the web site:
Altintas is new
ASME Fellow
Yusuf Altintas
(ME) was elected a
Fellow of the
American Society
of Mechanical
Engineers (ASME)
in November 1998.
The appointment
recognizes his contributions to machine
milling and computer numerical control
(CNC) research. Altintas began a sabbatical
this past July, and is now at the University
of Florida where he is working with J.
Tlusty, an internationally known CNC
lamascope to be on exhibit at
the Millenium Dome in London
The lamascope, developed by Sid Fels
(ECE) while carrying out research at ATR
Labs in Japan, will be on exhibit at the
Millenium Dome in England for 18 months
starting in November. The lamascope uses
digital image and sound technology to give
a modern version of the familiar kaleidoscope. Computer video, graphics, vision,
and audio technology are combined to
create sound and imagery in pleasing
patterns. The viewer provides the image
from which the patterns are developed, and
can control both image and music through
body movement. For more information,
visit the lamascope website:
dept2/Iamascope/index. html.
Axel Meisen appointment
The former dean of Applied Science,
Axel Meisen, has been appointed the
new president of Memorial University in
St. John's, Newfoundland.
Rabab Ward made
Fellow of RSC
CICSR Director
Rabab Ward has
been elected a
Fellow of the Royal
Society of Canada
in recognition of
her contributions to
image and signal
processing. The society citation read:
"Rabab K. Ward, is a leader in the application of digital signal processing theory to
cable and high-definition television,
medical images, restoration of astronomical
images, and extraction of an infant's distress
level from his/her cry signal. Being a highly
accomplished researcher and a prolific
inventor, she has an impressive list of
publications and patents, and her work is
used in various companies and laboratories
worldwide. Examples include her non-
intrusive method for measuring the picture
quality in cable TV systems, the non-
interfering video system used by the aqua-
culture industry, and the fluorescence
microscope system used by cell-biology
Dale Cherchas: acting head of ME
Dale Cherchas has taken on the role of
acting head of the Mechanical Engineering
department, replacing Bob Evans (see story
on page 6).
Fall 99 Into the Millenium
Distinguished Lecture Series
CICSR is hosting its 11th annual
Distinguished Lecture Series, bringing in
academic & industrial leaders in the
forefront of their fields.
Lectures are free and start at 4:00 in room 208 of the CICSR/CS building, 2366 Main Mall, UBC.
Free Software Foundation, Ma
► September 23,1999
Freedom ware: The GNU/Linux System
and the Free Software Movement
International Submarine Engineering, BC
► January 27,2000
Marine Robotics Past,
Present and Future
Carnegie Mellon University, Pa
October 28,1999
Building Software Systems from Parts:
How Software Architecture Helps Explain
Why It's Hard
Stanford University, Ca
► February 24,2000
The Digital Michelangelo Project
Compaq Computer Corp., Ca
► November 18,1999
Mutually-Immersive Mobile
Telepresence: E-Travel
Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, Ca
► March 23,2000
Cryptographic Protocols
CICSR- Centre for Integrated Computer Systems Research www.cicsr.ubc.ca
The UBC Centre for Integrated Computer Systems Research (CICSR) is an interdepartmental
research organization made up of computer-related research faculty members in the
departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical
Engineering. Currently, there are more than 70 CICSR researchers who direct over 300
graduate students and collaborate with dozens of industrial firms in areas such as robotics,
artificial intelligence, communications, VLSI design, multimedia, and industrial automation.
Return Address:
CICSR, University of British Columbia
289-2366 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC.V6T 1Z4
Editors:     William Knight, Linda Sewell
Design:     wilyum creative
Photos:     Janis Franklin,
Biomedical Communications
Office:     University of British Columbia
289-2366 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4
Tel:      (604)822-6894 Fax:(604)822-9013
E-mail:     cicsrinfo@cicsr.ubc.ca
Contact:     Linda Sewell, Publications Coordinator,
CICSR Office


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