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Victoria University incubator receives Govt’s Entrepreneurial Universities funding

22 Sep 2017

A leading member of Japan’s digital media industry is joining Victoria University of Wellington as director of a new Computational Media Innovation Centre (CMIC).

The Centre will be based in Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering and was today announced by Paul Goldsmith, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment as one of the first three recipients of funding from the Government’s $35 million Entrepreneurial Universities initiative.

The initiative aims to attract world-leading entrepreneurial academics to New Zealand in order to foster cutting-edge research and university-led innovation and entrepreneurship.

CMIC Director Professor Ken Anjyo set up and headed the research and development (R&D) division of OLM Digital, the Tokyo production company famous for the Pokémon movies, as well as for 3D animated feature films.

He later became the company’s chief technology officer and is now its executive research and development adviser.

He has contributed to Japan’s digital media industry for many years, including between 2009 and 2014 as a technical committee member of the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, the largest association of Japanese game companies.

He is a board member of VFX-JAPAN, the Japanese association of domestic digital production companies, and a member of the Visual Effects Society in the United States.

Professor Mike Wilson, Faculty of Engineering Pro-Vice Chancellor, says Victoria’s successful application for Entrepreneurial Universities funding and ability to attract an industry figure of Professor Anjyo’s standing are an endorsement of the entrepreneurial spirit already at large at Victoria and of the ground-breaking research into innovative digital media taking place at the University.

“Professor Anjyo will be heading a team that includes some of our many stars in this field, including as deputy director Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee,” says Professor Wilson.

“Associate Professor Rhee himself came to us from a strong industry background, at Samsung, and has been conducting pioneering virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) research that just last week received $1 million for one of its projects from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest Endeavour Fund science investment round.”

CMIC will incubate potential startups and industry pipelines to strengthen New Zealand’s computing and media ecosystem, placing it at the forefront of an emerging global digital media market, says Professor Anjyo.

It aims to develop extensive links with a variety of renowned gaming and anime companies and institutes in Japan, the United States and elsewhere, he says.

“Although creativity and artistic skills for creating digital media are important, the core research activities for providing competitive media are based on scientific efforts, including new algorithms, computational models, simulation methods based on computer science, computer vision and computer graphics.

“The Computational Media in our Centre’s name emphasises computing’s significant role in communications and its expression in digital media.

“We will conduct fundamental research in computational science, including computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning and applied mathematics, in response to industry needs. We will apply our research to new and existing digital media technologies. And we will ensure technology transfer from research to industry to strengthen New Zealand’s capability in interactive media such as virtual reality/augmented reality, as well as films and computer games.”

Also joining CMIC executive adviser is James Foley, internationally respected as a computer science and graphics pioneer and Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.

In 2007, Professor Foley received a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, with his citation saying: “It is difficult to think of anyone who had a larger role in the institutionalisation of HCI [human-computer interaction] as a discipline.”

The programme to establish Victoria’s Computational Media Innovation Centre will begin in January 2018, with the Centre opening in June 2018.

It will complement the activities of the recently launched Victoria University of Wellington Miramar Creative Centre, which offers students the opportunity to gain unprecedented insights into the inner workings of the creative industries and interact with world-leading practitioners in the heart of Wellington’s film and digital media industry.

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