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DARPA awards $2.53M to Ohio State-led project

Professor Lee PotterThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $2.53 million, three-year grant to a consortium of institutions led by The Ohio State University for active sensing via compressive illumination research. As highlighted in a February 2010 article in The Economist, an exponential growth in the number of sensors has created a data deluge. In this three-year DARPA program, a team of engineers, scientists and mathematicians are working to develop and demonstrate foundational principles for adaptively managing the collection of data.

Lee Potter, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State, leads the project, which is one of six efforts in DARPA’s knowledge-enhanced compressive measurement (KECoM) program. Application areas targeted in the program include optical imaging, spectroscopy and radar.

“The central question this research seeks to answer is how to collect only that data which is informative for the desired task,” explains Potter. “In this context, the very concept of information depends on prior knowledge and the question to be answered.”

As an illustration, Potter uses the example of a cellphone camera that captures a 2 megapixel (two million pixels) image, then compresses that image to only tens of thousands of bytes before sending it to the desired recipient. In this case, the silicon-based camera is so inexpensive that you don't mind collecting hundreds of times more data bits than are actually needed to describe the image; but, for many sensors the data collection itself is expensive or time-consuming. After examining cases such as these, researchers have wondered if they could directly acquire compressed data.

“ Recent results from applied mathematics have provided conditions and guarantees for such compressed sensing, and have spurred new work in optics, radar, magnetic resonance and other applications,” says Potter. “These recent results combine, illuminate and extend a variety of ad hoc techniques that engineers have experimentally used for several decades.”

Potter’s team, which includes Phil Schniter, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Emre Ertin, assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering, aims to develop an application-agnostic foundational theory for active sensing with adaptive collection of measurements. An active sensor transmits energy for sensing, in contrast to a passive collection strategy. Technology advances allow active sensors to adapt, at both transmission and reception, to maximize the information gathered using limited sensing resources. For demonstration, the team is applying the new approaches to radar.

The Ohio State-led team includes researchers from four other universities. Co-investigators in the project include Rich Baraniuk, Rice University; Rob Nowak, University of Wisconsin; Thomas Strohmer, University of California-Davis; and Jarvis Haupt; University of Minnesota.