University of Western Australia: Two UWA projects win national research funding

A project that will advance 3D computer vision for use in 3D mapping, surveying, robotics and autonomous vehicles, and a study that will investigate the way crops use nutrients, will receive a combined $1.9 million in Federal Government funding.

The funding was announced today by Federal Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge under the Australian Research Council’s Future Fellowship Scheme.

“Importantly, these research projects will keep some of the world’s finest minds right here in Australia so that we can directly reap the benefits of their research,” Minister Tudge said.

Professor of Computer Science Ajmal Mian has been awarded $1,126,000 over four years to develop robust and cost effective 3D computer vision.

He hopes to address problems commonly encountered in ‘deep learning’ (a machine learning technique that enables automatic learning through the absorption of data such as images, video or text).

“Any autonomous system, whether it’s a robot, a drone or an autonomous car, must be able to algorithmically replicate what the human eyes and brain can ‘see’ before it can properly interact with the environment around it,” Professor Mian said.

“At the moment autonomous vision isn’t ready for deployment in safety and security critical applications because it can fail or be easily fooled by malicious alterations that appear harmless to human observers.

“When talking about autonomous driving for example, we must pass the vision test before we can proceed to the driving test. This project aims to address the problems that currently exist by developing robust and explainable 3D vision systems.”

Dr Yinlong Chen from UWA’s Institute of Agriculture and School of Agriculture and Environment will use a $786,690 research grant over four years to unravel the secrets of the rhizosphere (the zone of soil surrounding a plant root) of crops.


“Our work will improve the ways crops use nutrients and ultimately crop production by optimising the structure and functions of root architecture, rhizosphere compounds and microbial communities in the process of nutrient mobilisation, particularly phosphate,” Dr Chen said.

“We’ll also look at dynamics in the ‘biogeochemical interfaces’, the area where organic and biological components in the soil interact together,” he added.

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