Maximizing Zhuhai's applied R&D capabilities

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In addition to basic research, CityU is also committed to promoting applied R&D and commercializing research products. CityU is, in fact, the first university in Hong Kong to successfully incubate a technology company. Further to joining the Shenzhen Virtual University Park in December 2000 (see related story in Bulletin No.23, e-link: Shenzhen VirtualU), CityU formally opened its Zhuhai Applied R&D Centres on 15 May, making it the first local tertiary institution to set up a research base in Guangdong's Southern Software Park.

"The establishment of the Zhuhai Applied R&D Centres bears witness to the University's strong determination to extend its research platform to the booming Pearl River Delta (PRD) region," said Professor P S Chung, Vice-President (Research), at the ceremony. "Through these bridges, we hope to tap into the technological expertise and market potential available in the mainland. We'll also strengthen our links with educational institutions and business organizations in the municipal and nearby districts."

The Centres' objectives include developing advanced technologies; training research staff and students; providing consulting services; and commercializing research results. There are currently about 25 research and support staff working in the Centres, many of whom studied in reputable mainland universities such as ShanghaiJiaoTongUniversity, WuhanUniversity, ZhongshanUniversity and the SouthChinaNormalUniversity.

Lower running costs, the availability of top research talent and proximity to the mainland market are just some of the many advantages offered by a mainland research office. The University will continue to explore new footholds across the border as opportunities arise, said Mr H Y Wong, Director of the Industrial and Business Development Office. More than 180 academics and business and industry representatives from Hong Kong and the mainland attended the opening of the Centres. The inauguration ceremony was officiated by Mr Luo Chunbai, Deputy Director of the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone Administrative Committee; Mr Lin Xingdao, Municipal Deputy Mayor; and Mr Mu Rongguang, President of the Southern Software Park Development Co Ltd; together with Professor Chung; Professor W F Fong, Associate Vice-President (Research); Professor Y S Wong, Vice-President (Institutional Advancement); and Professor Hong Yan, the Centres' Director and Head of the Department of Computer Engineering and Information Technology.

In the rapid development of the PRD, Zhuhai undoubtedly has became a gem in the crown of southern China. Late last year, senior staff from the University paid two visits to Zhuhai. Within a month, CityU and the Southern Software Park had reached an agreement for the establishment of the Centres, and it took only around six months to see them formally opened. The University also hopes to establish mutually-beneficial partnership and collaborations with the organizations in and around the Park, with a view to contributing to the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong and Zhuhai.

"This endeavour not only expands our research horizons, but also fits in with the view put forward in the recent University Grants Committee review on higher education. The review urges local universities to make good use of our geographical proximity to the Pearl River Delta region," said Professor Wong. For his part, Mr Lin Xingdao said the CityU Centres in Zhuhai will give an impetus to the economic development of the region and contribute to its prosperity.

What's brewing at the Zhuhai Applied R&D Centres ...

The six funded research projects at the Zhuhai Applied R&D Centres cover the areas of multimedia systems for education and entertainment, Internet computing, medical imaging, computer technology for building and construction, and language engineering.

Active Media Systems

Active Media Systems (AMS), developed by Professor Liu Zhi-qiang of the School of Creative Media, can detect the presence of a user and initiates interaction with the user. The device then activates an application-programming interface (API) for specific signal modality, such as face image and speech signal, to analyse and interpret the interests of the user. In addition, the AMS utilizes the Internet to enable instant update of media content anywhere in the world. AMS is also readily applicable to other areas, including active advertisements, television programmes, education and learning.

Advanced Image Processing and Pattern Recognition Systems

Chair Professor Hong Yan, the Zhuhai Centres' Director and Head of the Department of Computer Engineering and Information Technology, has developed several advanced systems for intelligent image processing and analysis which include printed and handwritten character recognition, document image compression, cartoon image analysis, human face image recognition and animation, and DNA chip data analysis.

The systems can be adapted for a number of uses: car license plate recognition; the creation of digital libraries from books and other paper documents; converting raster images scanned from paper to vector format; and security check and monitoring systems. The DNA chip data analysis is a totally automatic method for extracting "spots" on DNA chips. It deals with low contrast images, does not require manual adjustment and performs substantially better than the programmes currently in the market. DNA data normalization and clustering techniques are currently under development.

AnyServer - An Intelligent and Ad-hoc Information Server

AnyServer, developed by Dr Jia Weijia, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science, is an integrated server which can be tailored to the needs of individuals, homes and SMEs. Through phones, PDAs or PCs, AnyServer can be easily set up as a manual-free call centre, information service centre, or low cost e-commerce or networking system.

CASSOS: IT for Advanced Medical Systems Research and Development

The Computer-Assisted Simulation System for Orthognathic Surgery (CASSOS) is medical software designed for maxillofacial surgeons and orthodontists to produce surgical plans prior to the actual surgery. The system facilitates surgeons to evaluate different surgical plans and predict the outcome prior to surgery, using advanced imaging processing and graphics technologies. Chair Professor Horace Ip, Head of the Department of Computer Science, is the principal investigator of the project.

CASSOS has been widely adopted in hospitals in the US, the UK, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Professor Ip and his team are working to further develop the software with medical document management functions suitable for hospitals and clinical operations in China's mainland.

IT Development in Building and Architectural Engineering Design

The building industry is increasingly reliant on information technology. Pioneering research in building analysis and design software is urgently required. This project, led by Professor Andrew Leung, Chair Professor and Head of the Department of Building and Construction, aims to develop practical software to meet the needs of the market, such as building engineering online training, as well as emergency plans and escape analyses in case of disasters.

The research team will review the structural design packages that are required in Hong Kong by studying the design procedures stipulated in Hong Kong's Buildings Ordinance and its allied regulations and codes of practice. They will develop input format and structural analysis principles in accordance with the statutory framework and seek approval from the related authority.

Linguistics Variation in Chinese Speech Communities (LIVAC) Corpus The LIVAC database regularly compiles linguistic data from the major newspapers of six Chinese-speaking communities: Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. It was developed in 1994 by Professor Benjamin T'sou, Chair Professor of Linguistics and Asian Languages in the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics and Director of the Language Information Sciences Research Centre.

Through the selection of words, meanings and evolution, the corpus captures social, cultural and linguistic developments in the

six communities. The corpus, accessible from the Internet, has stored more than 80 million characters and 500,000 phrases, which is very useful for different aspects of linguistic information technology research, and the development of IT products.

 

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