Press Release

Day: 16 March 2022

Adam Herout: I enjoy connecting the world of atoms and bits


For his academic and pedagogical achievements, Adam Herout received a silver medal from the Rector this year. In 2015, at the age of 37, he became one of the youngest professors at BUT. He works at the Department of Computer Graphics and Multimedia at the Faculty of Information Technology, where he focuses on computer vision, as well as at Angelcam, a company he co-founded. He writes a blog for students in his spare time and does coaching. Yet, Adam Herout often says: 'I am an amateur and a dilettante'.

* Having read your CV, I don't find the 'amateur' and 'dilettante' labels very fitting.

But they fit me. The word amateur comes from the Latin amare, which means to love. It is a man who loves what he does. Dilettante is derived from the Latin delectare, which means to entertain. I have no idea why these words later turned into insults. They used to refer to people who do things they love. I feel that way, too - I am an amateur and a dilettante in the field of computer vision and pedagogy. I love doing this work very much and it entertains me. However, I have to be careful about announcing such things in an academic environment, that's for sure.

* Otherwise you might not have been awarded the Silver Medal of BUT.

I admit that it caught me off guard and I have some mixed feelings about whether I truly deserve it. But I am also happy because it is a token of appreciation for my research and teaching activities.

* Why did you decide to focus on computer vision?

We have a world of atoms in which we exist. There is the mug, the table, the room. And then there is the world of bits where information is stored - the database. We can work in the world of atoms, like building engines. We can also work in the world of bits, like creating databases and searching for information. It is fascinating to learn how to communicate between these two worlds, and it is still problematic. We use cameras and develop clever algorithms to do this, but there are some pieces of information that computers cannot interpret yet. They don't recognise some important things from CCTV footage, like the fact that when two people are holding hands, they like each other.

* Some of your research on computer vision algorithms has also been related to transportation systems.

For example, we have designed algorithms for camera systems in car parks that do not store registration plates. I think privacy is very important. That's why we have devised a system to re-identify cars without storing their registration plates. We used cameras to collect car characteristics such as the model, colour and other distinguishing features. We worked with the timeline in this project. People want their privacy to be protected, and I understand why. I try to contribute to the creation of systems that do not collect personal data even in situations where it is necessary. My colleagues and I have been trying to teach computers to see a lot of things. For example, to understand what the pilot is doing in the cockpit and how much stress he is under. Recognise important points on the patient's skull in CT images and directly design implants for the points where the skull is damaged. In a production environment, to see even small defects, so that the rejects are caught in time and do not spoil the next process. There are many situations where it is really useful for the computer to see and understand things to some degree.

* Your blog, where you also give advice on how to write a diploma thesis, is quite popular among students. Why did you start it?

I really like being a thesis supervisor. Even more so than some other parts of teaching. Some of the formal requirements often come up during consultations and I had to explain the same things to the students over and over again. So I figured I'd summarise them in a blog article. I have written a series of them titled The Tao of Thesis. The article on how to write an abstract was the most popular.

* Where do you think students make mistakes most often?

They will mindlessly repeat dogmatic procedures or phrases when writing or defending a thesis without understanding what they mean because they are led to believe that "this is the proper way of doing it". It doesn't matter that it makes no sense to them and the text they produce is unreadable or the presentation they're giving is hard to follow. I try to cultivate critical thinking and empathy in students - I want them to empathise with the reader of the thesis or the examination board members. To formulate things clearly, simply, understandably and logically. The state examinations are burdened with a lot of myths. It can be done with more human understanding and more truthfully without so much academic Latin and embellishments.

* Do you still add articles to the blog?

I used to post weekly and the blog had thousands of visitors daily from various universities. Mostly right before the state exams, unsurprisingly. I haven't added anything new to the blog recently, I've already sort of written everything I wanted to say. I have received thankful emails from students and that makes me happy. I hope that they will continue using the same principles that helped them with their state exam presentations to express themselves simply and comprehensibly when they speak to people. Some students even contacted me asking me to coach them.

* You have completed four years of psychotherapeutic training and are involved in Gestalt therapy - who do you coach?

At first, I focused mainly on professional coaching in the field of technology and innovation - precisely because I know a bit about the development of information technology thanks to my professional experience. But I really enjoy personal coaching - helping people who are struggling with something, looking for their own path in life and wanting to make a positive change in their lives.

* It is a somewhat unusual combination of professions - an IT researcher and a psychotherapist.

As I said, I'm fascinated by the connection between the world of atoms and the world of bits. But then there is a third, completely different world - the world of the soul. Algorithms can be viewed in terms of data structures. Or you can look at them from an application perspective - what the technology can do and what it can be used for. I am interested in yet another perspective - what technology does to the human soul. Take the mobile phone - it's no longer just a personal computer that only does a certain computing work for the user. There is a huge chunk of a person's life stored in all the text messages, the calendar and the photo gallery. The telephone is a gateway to a person's intimate life. I'm interested in how technology relates to our souls, how to deal with it, and what is yet to come.

Author: Kozubová Hana, Mgr.

Last modified: 2022-07-18T09:20:03

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