Research winners tackle games, malware and art

Victoria University student takes out Computer Society's top prize

The winner of this year’s student research contest, run by the NZ Computer Society’s Wellington branch, is Victoria University’s Elwyn Benson, who studied freehand sketching as a means of interacting with computer games

Benson’s research project explored drawing lines in games in two contexts: selecting several objects by drawing a freehand boundary around them, rather than the common interface requiring the player to enclose them in standard boxes, and using a freehand line rather than a series of waypoints to indicate a route for a movement of an icon representing a player.

The five finalists were judged on presentation as well as on the merits of the project itself, the student’s approach to it and the way challenges were faced, the objectives and the potential future use of the research.

On presentation there was not much difference between the contenders’ scores says NZCS president Don Robertson, one of the panel of judges, but Benson stood out for the detail of his project, which was “explained particularly well”. The only shortcoming was in discussing the long-term potential, which the judges felt extended far beyond games. Benson made a brief reference to possible military applications, which could have been discussed in more detail, says Robertson.

Second place was taken by Sam Russell who has developed methods of “reverse-engineering” drive-by downloads and thereby improving detection and protection against this means of introducing malware.

Third place-getter Roman Kaplaukh explored automatic machine modification of images with the aim of applying evolutionary paradigms of mutation, survival and “fitness” to artistic work. His long-term aim, he says, is to have machines produce artwork judged to be of merit, so human artists will no longer be necessary.

Benson was awarded $400, Russell $200 and Kaplaukh $100.

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