La Monarca Vol 4 FINAL - Page 11



DOCTORAL STUDENT SPOTLIGHT
Alain Juárez Pérez
By contrast, Alain’s approach is decidedly bottomup. He seeks to uncover the biomechanical rules
that govern motion and to convert those rules into
computer algorithms that tell virtual ball-and-stick
actors how to move. Creating a whole scene might
take seconds instead of days. His job is to convert into
computer code the myriad interactions of forces and
constraints generated by bones, muscles and gravity
that, combined, produce a seamless motion.
Starting with the data from real-life actors, he
compares their motion to the algorithms he has
developed to control his virtual ball-and-stick actors.
He then distills superfluous movements from essential
ones. Finally, he analyzes the discrepancies between
the real and the computer-generated movements,
using a variety of quality metrics to see how well his
algorithms mimic motion, and continually fine-tunes
the computer code until the animation looks just
right.
While plenty of career opportunities in computer
programming were available to Alain before graduate
school, even straight out of high school, he wanted
a deeper understanding of how it all worked, and
this curiosity led him to pursue a doctoral degree.
After undergraduate studies at the large, historic
Universidad de Guanajuato, it was an exciting change
of pace to come to the brand new UC Merced campus
and be a part of creating a major research university
from scratch.
When asked for advice for young students looking
to make a career out of video gaming, he says that
it is not for the faint of heart. “Currently, I don’t
recommend it to most. It’s not a six-month decision.
It’s a longer decision. If you really think you fit in, take
your time and always have a second choice.”
However, it looks like Alain won’t need a backup
plan after graduating with his own Ph.D. later next
year. Human-like animation is a hot topic, and with
his first-principles knowledge of biomechanics and
the computer coding skills to implement it, Alain’s
already got his foot in the door. •
Photo courtesy of Alain Juarez Perez
Although Alain’s pursuit of the basic principles of
motion leaves little additional time to apply any of
these concepts, others are already using this work
to improve a wide variety of applications including
medical devices, safety simulations and workplace
ergonomics. For example, medical devices for physical
therapy can be designed without having to physically
create dozens of prototypes and tests with real humans.
Medical robotics companies are also very interested in
this technology to design micro-scale instruments that
recreate the motions of a surgeon’s hand.
UC MEXUS-CONACYT DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP NEWSLET TER
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