Director in USC Trojan Family Magazine

Director in USC Trojan Family Magazine
Issue: Spring 2004

No Byte Untasted

Cyrus Shahabi

Photo by Irene fertik

Trafficking in Junk Data

Cyrus Shahabi’s mother must be proud. He clearly took her admonitions about “waste not, want not” to heart. The USC computer scientist, who recently received a $400,000 Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation, never lets a crumb of data go to waste. Shahabi specializes in extracting useful patterns from what is ordinarily thought of as junk data. Some years ago, it dawned on him that the second-by-second interchanges of cues and responses between computers and the devices humans use to interact with them are teeming with untapped information. For example, Shahabi and a large interdisciplinary team found in a ground-breaking study that children thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder could be diagnosed accurately by analyzing the signals coming from the hand- and leg-tracking devices and immersion goggles they wore while exploring virtual environments. Could these “immersidata” – a term he coined – be used to design learning tools for ADHD patients, or even for stroke brain-injury victims? Shahabi’s group is now studying that question. He believes this work will lead to far more capable educational software and computer interfaces capable of tailoring themselves to individual users. Shahabi MS ’93, PhD ’96 came to USC as a graduate student, having earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Iran’s Sharif University of Technology; he stayed on as one of the early faculty of the USC School of Engineering’s Integrated Media Systems Center. He also directs USC's Information Laboratory.

– Eric Mankin

USC Family Trojan Magazine(Spring 2004)
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