Computer Science and Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar

Knowledge Is Power: Sensing The Physical World Around Devices

Yang ZhangPh.D. CandidateCarnegie Mellon University
3725 Beyster BuildingMap
There is power in the knowledge computers possess. Computers 70 years ago knew only what could be loaded into their memory but today they can access the entire internet of information. This expansion of knowledge has made them indispensable assistants in our daily lives. However, even today, computers still know little about the physical world, especially the immediate world around them due to the lack of effective perceptual capabilities. This undercuts the smartness and usefulness of computer systems and potentials to make computers more powerful assistants.

In this talk, I will present my sensing research to boost computer perception of the immediate physical world around devices through environment- and object-centric approaches. Specifically, I have explored sensing technologies that allow one deployed sensor to cover a wide area for user activity and event recognition. I have also explored sensing technologies that enhance everyday objects for user contact and use detection. These sensing technologies create usable sensor feeds such as state, count, and rate of activities, which could enable a wide range of applications such as personal informatics, accessibility, digital health, sustainability, and beyond.

Bio:  Yang Zhang is a 5th year PhD candidate at Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. He is also a Qualcomm Innovation Fellow. His research lies in the technical aspects of human-computer interaction with a focus on sensing technologies that enhance computing devices with knowledge of the physical world around them. His research has received 2 best paper and 4 honorable mention awards at top venues, and extensive media coverage from leading media outlets (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review, and Engadget). His research has also drawn attention from and initiated collaborations with industry research, such as Facebook Reality Labs, Microsoft Research, Apple, and PPG. More information can be found on his website:


Cindy Estell

Faculty Host

Walter Lasecki