Highlights from a 40 years Career
My first job was in the Netherlands and started on 1 January 1969. Therefore I have completed my 40th year of employment. Such an anniversary may call for a review of what one did accomplish in 40 years. Often I was "struggling to achieve", yet on reflection I feel happy about the accomplishments.
Affecting the Austrian Research Centers [today the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT]
I once considered my best professional effort the one that had gone into the Austrian Research Centers (1996-1998) where
major changes were needed in 1996, and where insights were called for from both academia as well as from business and management. I recall four major initiatives:
a) First and foremost there was a need to re-orient the organization away from the poorly developed market for nuclear research and into the ever-emerging wide fields of Information Technology.
b) Very important was the effort to make the Austrian Government aware that its ideas of research funding, particularly to support public-private partnerships were insufficient and that political influence on research programs was unacceptable.
c) In addition there was a need to change the profit-and-loss attitudes of the various teams so that they would be in tune with modern corporate management needs.
d) And another important change was to broaden the Center from being "Vienna-only" into a truly "Austrian Center", and at the same time to improve the international network.
As I recall it, I did not make many friends by being an “advocate of change”
vis-a-vis many established stakeholders. But I feel that change was achieved, was relevant and that a subsequent period of progress of this organization became possible because of the
When I now look back at the development of the Austrian Research Centers/Austrian Institute of Technology I wonder: what has survived the times since 1998? The focus of research has been shifted away from nuclear work, accounting has become and remains professionalized [the word "business"/"Geschaeft" has become commonplace], and activities have developed and have been sustained in the Austrian provinces. However, on a very important matter, perhaps the most important one, there has been no lasting success - politics and the office of the Federal Minister in charge of the Austrian Research Center are still far too prevalent, and manage far too often to bypass the supervisory and management structures represented by the Board of Directors of the Center and by its management.
major part of my work dealt with the conversion of imaging SAR-sensors into photogrammetric
mapping devices with a defined geometry, bridging large unmapped areas using
ground control points or later using GPS, producing DEMs and ortho-images. Early recognition for that work was in the form of the Otto-von-Gruber-Award, given every 4 years by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing ISPRS. I received this award in 1976.
The applications and methods are described in the book "Radargrammetric Image Processing", using the same set of basic ideas and techniques when mapping tropical rain forests, arctic ice fields and planetary surfaces. Individual papers on this topic were published in J. of Geophysical Research, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience & Remote Sensing and in Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. This work has also won best paper awards, most prominently at the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing conference in 1987. For sure the culmination was my 16-year-participation in NASA’s Science team for the Magellan-mission to explore the planet Venus (1978 – 1994).
Large Format Digital Aerial Cameras
My focus in the years from 2001 until 2007 was on the "popularization" of digital large format aerial cameras by demonstrating that such cameras can be built at a cost not larger than the cost of film cameras, yet be fully photogrammetric with a defined internal accuracy and a single perspective geometry and be significantly more economical in their use. I was able to assemble a team of capable people to help with the endeavor, and to achieve a significant commercial success with the market introduction in 2003 of the UltraCam-D large format 90 Megapixel digital aerial camera. This achievement was built on the success of the precision film scanner UltraScan 5000, and previously the scanner VX3000; these earlier products and the aerial camera succeeded to "democratize" previously high cost equipment for photogrammetry by lowering the costs and increasing productivity over the competing offerings. Today, the camera technology exists in the form of the UltraCam-XP with ~ 200 MPixels per image and the lower cost UltraCam-L at less than 50% of the cost of the UltraCam-XP. These products hold an impressive share of the world market for aerial cameras in excess of 40%.
Early Advocacy to Combine Computer Vision and Computer Graphics
1980, I was permitted by Joanneum Research (then Graz Research Center) to kick-off a separate Institute in Graz to dedicate itself to the processing of
visual data. I called it the Institute of Image Processing and Computer Graphics.
I have along my entire career worked to break down the barriers between these
two fields, and am continuing to do so to my best ability. I am happy to say
that my young friends at Graz University of Technology, Horst Bischof and Dieter
Schmalstieg, share this vision, and while it would be trivial for each of them
to spin out into their own separate Institutes, they opted to remain together
in one group, and continue along the unifying idea of an Institute for
Computer Graphics and Vision and its German only-in-Graz and
one-of-a-kind-name “Maschinelles Sehen und Darstellen”. With this approach we have implemented what now has become an international trend encapsulated by the word "Visual Computing".
Photogrammetric Computer Vision
A concern of mine has always been the merger of photogrammetry and
computer vision into "Photogrammetric Computer Vision", a concept now
also embraced by the ISPRS. The 2000-2004 appointment to the Presidency of ISPRS Commission III (Theory and Algorithms) made it possible to persuade the ISPRS leadership that it was time to commit
to Photogrammetric Computer Vision – the Commission today carries this name ("Photogrammetrie Computer Vision and Image Analysis", see http://www.isprs.org).
Processing Medical Visual Information
along my career, I have been involved with medical projects, as most
who deal with digital imaging. I am
proud of the success of building up a group in medical imaging, and its
"Liver Surgery Planning System". This effort has won awards, such as the Eurographics Medical Prize in 2003, and two
an award of excellence at the European Radiological Society's Annual
Conference. It also has led to acceptance of papers at the highest
example in the IEEE Transactions on Medial Imaging. Obviously, this was
possible because of star doctoral students such as Reinhard Beichel, and
because of my friendship with Milan Sonka, professor at the University of Iowa. Reinhard Beichel has transferred to the University of Iowa and I cannot but wish him all the best in making his career in North America.
21 Years of Vexcel Corporation, Vexcel Imaging GmbH and 140 Employees
I am proud of Vexcel Corporation. I formed the company in 1985 in Colorado. In 1993, we added an Austrian branch under the name of Vexcel Imaging GmbH. In 2006, it was an international company with more than 140 employees. It had a reputation to defend, for example when hearing statements by bystanders that "Vexcel is the World's premier radar signal processing house". The innovations from the work of this company were impressive. My greatest achievement was to persuade Dr. John Curlander to take over the leadership in Colorado in 1992. He managed an unparalleled series of profitable quarters all throughout his tenure in excess of 14 years, and he broadened the company's capabilities to include the "Remote Sensing Ground Segment", that is the ability to receive, store and process satellite remote sensing data streams.
In 2006, I was able to "exit" from my business career by a sale of Vexcel to Microsoft Corporation in the USA. That sale not only was a great financial success for myself and via stock options also for most of the employees, but it is also considered an unqualified success by Microsoft. And it permitted me to develop a privileged insight into the inner workings of Microsoft, an unparalleled global innovator.
More than 40 Doctoral Graduates
Given my lack of focus on any one thing, and given my many years in business or management, I find it remarkable that so many young people over the years trusted me with their ambition to enter into science. I hope it was worth to them to make the effort of several years of hard work, of learning to publish, to innovate at the highest levels and to participate in the learned dialogue with a world-wide community of peers.
These Doctors of Applied Science have become friends, and I do enjoy every opportunity I get to be in touch.
Having Fun with the Creation of New Things
As is evident from my resume, I did enjoy it when I could
create new things such as Institutes, Learned Societies or
Corporations. And I also enjoy it when I can move around, from place to
place, having friends in far-flung destinations. That in itself is not
an accomplishment but an interest. However, it is gratifying to see
these new things taking shape and then be taken over by others, sometimes
to results far beyond my own expectations. And the luck I had in
finding people who were and are willing to carry on what someone else
had started is exceptional.