The research project that I worked on this summer was in graphics, working towards a realistic facial model and simulation that can one day be used to improve virtual reality interactions. We focused on creating an eye simulation, incorporating many features necessary to create a realistic eye. These features include the ability to deform into various human expressions such as smiling or squinting, the subtle but frequent movements of the eyeball, blinking patterns, the flow of tears, and the changes in reflectivity. After studying and implementing these features, we wrote code to have the features come together and interact with one another to create a realistic model.
Through my research, I learned many technical skills that were required to construct the eye model. These skills range from modeling the eye, rigging it to prepare for animation, and writing code and scripts to manipulate the model. I had to learn many of these skills on my own. There were a few people in the lab that were available to help and answer questions, but I learned a lot of the tools I needed through trial and error and online tutorials. This experience helped me realize that I can learn on my own without the structure of a course.
In addition to the technical skills, I learned a lot from the overall research experience. We began by reading previous research papers, trying to understand the background of the field we sought to contribute to. These readings helped teach me how to read and understand research papers, and they gave me insight into the process of graphics research similar to our own project.
Another part of the experience that helped me grow was working in a team. I worked with two other students on the project. Organization was critical in order to be efficient while still making sure that we could merge separate parts of the project. This took some time for us to figure out. Initially, we found ourselves redoing some work to combine our individual contributions, and sometimes were stuck waiting for a teammate to finish an element. However, as the project progressed, we began to learn how to divide the work in efficient, manageable ways. This skill of working in a team, as well as the many others I learned throughout the process, will carry forward and help in many future endeavors.