Art and Science of Animation Merge at Cognitive Animation Workshop

MERCED - An interdisciplinary team of UC Merced professors is bringing together the top minds in cognitive science and computer graphics and animation this week to explore how the fields can partner to create better, more realistic animated characters for gaming, film, customer service and other applications - even virtual surgeries and autonomous robots. The first-ever Cognitive Animation Workshop will be June 4 and 5 at the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite National Park.

"Until now, the science of movement and the art of animation have proceeded mostly on separate tracks," said Professor Teenie Matlock,a cognitive scientist in the UC Merced School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts."We hope to come to a better understanding of how cognitive science can inform the design of animated characters and effects, and how animation can help cognitive science, as well."

Attendees at the workshop, including delegations from Sony, IBM Research, Stanford, Vanderbilt University, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced, will explore potential partnerships among universities and industry - a primary goal of the Discovery Grant from the UC Office of the President, which is funding the conference.

Other sponsors of the workshop include IBM and The Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society (CITRIS),an intercampus research organization that supports the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in computer science and engineering.

Keynote speakers at the workshop include Dana Ballard from the University of Texas, Austin and Demitri Terzopoulos of UCLA - top names in computer science and cognitive science.

"We're honored and proud to bring these leaders in our field to the workshop," Matlock said. "The event is important because it will boost our visibility and showcase the innovative and interdisciplinary vision of our computer science and cognitive science programs."

Engineering professor Marcelo Kallmannco-organized the event with Matlock, bringing his expertise in computer graphics and animation to the table. Engineering professors Shawn Newsamof UC Merced and Petros Faloutsos of UCLA are also co-organizers. Professor Michael Spivey of Cornell University, who will join the cognitive science faculty at UC Merced this year, will lead a panel discussion. Dean Jeff Wrightof the School of Engineering and Interim Dean Hans Bjornssonof the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts will also attend.

UC Merced students have also been involved in the workshop, with graduate students gaining experience in organizing an academic conference and even undergrads participating and attending. Matlock said there will be about 20 students at the conference in total, with about half that number coming from UC Merced.

For more information, including a full program of speakers, please see the workshop Web site at

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