Ronald A. Rensink

Emeritus Professor

Department of Computer Science
University of British Columbia
2366 West Mall
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4

Tel:  604-822-0598
Fax: 604-822-4231
Email: rensink {a t}
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia
2136 Main Mall
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4

Tel:  604-822-2579
Fax: 604-822-6923
Email: rensink {a t}

Publications     Projects     Change Blindness     Teaching

Research Interests

I am interested in vision‐the various ways that humans, animals, and computers use light to see.  I believe that vision involves constraints that apply to any  system, and that the most successful visual systems are based on very general information-processing strategies.  As such, my approach is to examine biological systems (including humans) to see how they operate, and then to look at these mechanisms from a computational point of view to see if they embody more general principles.  Among other things, these more general principles can provide a scientific basis for the design of visual interfaces that can interact with human visual systems in an optimal way.

My research interests include:

1. Human vision
  • what is attention, and how does it operate?
  • what is space, and how do we represent it?
  • what are objects, and how do we represent them?
  • how are scenes represented?

  • 2. Computational vision
  • how do "quick and dirty" processes reduce time requirements?
  • what are the trade-offs for various kinds of representations?
  • what are the physical limits of visual perception?
  • are there universal principles for all vision systems?

  • 3. Information visualization
  • what is the basis of effective design in visual displays?
  • how can visual interfaces be designed so as to be "transparent" to the user?
  • how can data be represented so that our visual intelligence can pick out interesting patterns?
  • can there be a "science of visualization"?

  • Other Interests

  • History and philosophy of science
  • Hiking, camping, skiing, and scuba diving

  • How I Got Here

    I grew up in Whitby ON, a small town right next to one of the biggest industrial areas of Canada. There's only so much of that life that anyone can take, and so I eventually got out to Vancouver BC, where I spent most of my adult life. This included getting all kinds of degrees in Physics and Computer Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

    Unbeknownst to me when I began my studies at UBC was the fact that it had not one, but two really terrific vision labs. My "home" lab was the Laboratory for Computational Intelligence, in the Computer Science department. My supervisor there was Bob Woodham, one of the best computer vision people around. He encouraged me to also get to know the folks in the other lab, over in Psychology. That group was headed by Anne Treisman, from whom I learned a great deal about experimental psychology. After Anne left for Berkeley, the department got Jim Enns to replace her, and I ended up working with Jim and the people in his lab as well.

    After getting my PhD in Computer Science in 1992, I did a postdoc with Patrick Cavanagh at the Vision Sciences Laboratory in the Psychology department of Harvard University. There, I worked on the problem of how shadows can get interpreted rapidly and in parallel at early levels of vision. A few years later, I joined Cambridge Basic Research (CBR), a laboratory devoted to understanding the perceptual and cognitive systems involved in driving.  CBR was a joint effort of Nissan, Harvard, and MIT, and was a great example of how universities and industry could work together to support multidisciplinary research into advanced interface design.  After having spent several very enjoyable years at CBR, I returned to UBC as an assistant professor in the fall of 2000.  And the rest is history...

    Related Web Sites

    UBC Cognitive Systems | Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA)

    UBC Computer Science | Imager Computer Graphics Laboratory | Laboratory for Computational Intelligence

    UBC Psychology | Visual Cognition Laboratory

    Sister site in Psychology

    Last updated 20 Aug 2021.