Master of Computer Vision: New Online Programme on Coursera
In September 2021, HSE University’s Faculty of Informatics, Mathematics and Computer Science at HSE Nizhny Novgorod launched the new applied degree programme Master of Computer Vision. Developed in collaboration with leading experts in the field of computer vision - Huawei, Itseez3D, Intel, Harman, and Xperience.ai – the programme is available on the Coursera platform and open to applicants from all over the world. Andrey Savchenko, Academic Supervisor of the new programme, talked to The HSE Look about how it came to be and what are its advantages.
What is included in the “computer vision” concept and how did the campus come up with the idea of creating such a programme?
Computer vision (CV) is a field of AI that is closely related to machine learning; it is used to process and understand images and videos.
CV includes facial recognition, 3D reconstructions from multiple images, photo filters based on famous artworks, apps that identify objects in images and much more
Some examples you might have heard of are the Prisma photo editor app, the Mona Lisa painting that came to life, Yandex self-driving cars, or generated fake faces. A more complex example is a digital avatar that can be created from a photograph of a person and then uploaded to a game.
I am mostly responsible for the development of computer vision as a respective field at HSE Nizhny Novgorod due to my numerous publications and research projects in pattern recognition and image processing. First, this was a grant from the President of the Russian Federation for young doctors of sciences in 2017-2018; now, it is a grant from the Russian Science Foundation for emotional recognition studies. I also operated a research and study group for four years, which was supported by HSE, for multimedia data analysis on mobile devices. Thus, the computer vision field was being developed at our campus, and students were also getting interested in it. At the same time, a fairly large number of companies specializing in computer vision appeared in Nizhny Novgorod (the key developers of famous OpenCV library were from and based in Nizhny Novgorod). Then, we saw the success of HSE University’s Moscow-based Master's programme in data science, so that HSE University decided to continue development of online master’s programs together with Coursera. So, this has been a combination of circumstances.
Is the programme at HSE Nizhny Novgorod the only one of its kind in Russia? What makes it stand out and who are your target audience?
Computer vision as a specialization is rare because it is a niche field. Usually Master's degrees are much broader and only include courses on computer vision. The last time we analyzed the market was in the fall of 2020 and there were only a few programmes. In Russia, everything was held offline and only some parts of programmes are devoted to computer vision - at Moscow State University, at Innopolis University, and at Ural Federal University. There are some online programmes abroad, at Columbia University. And there are some online courses with certificates.
We realized we could offer something quite valuable. At HSE Nizhny Novgorod, we go deeper - the program includes courses that are exclusively focused on computer vision as well as applied tasks. We knew if we wanted to launch the programme, it would only be possible with the help of our colleagues from IT firms.
Most of what we are currently recording for the course is done in cooperation with those currently working in this industry
At the same time, it is quite a challenge - you need to communicate a lot with them to get the creation of the course done. Since the field is developing very dynamically and even two-year-old articles may no longer be relevant, for Coursera, we record courses at the very last moment when it can be done.
The geography of those who are interested in the programme is exactly what we expected. It attracts those regions where it might be difficult to attain higher education - Asia and South America. We originally counted on them. There are some who came from Europe and North America. Also, several from Russia, which is surprising.
You are from Nizhny Novgorod yourself. Why did you decide to stay and develop the IT sector in your hometown?
After completing my specialist degree in software development, I had offers to move to Moscow and St. Petersburg. At that time, however, I was interested in continuing my postgraduate studies at HSE. Back then, many professors from my university transferred to a new faculty at HSE and my supervisor invited me to teach there as well.
The University turned out to be a very interesting place for research activities. I defended my dissertation within two years and quit my job as a software engineer to work there
Moreover, I have a large family now and we truly like everything offered here. As a matter of fact, I used to participate in many distributed R&D projects and communicate with partners from the USA, China, France, as well as colleagues from many Russian cities. Right now, your place of residence does not matter: it is possible to remotely work as a CV engineer or data scientist from everywhere if you have a laptop and Internet connection. I hope that our program will bring the same possibility for learning, so that the relocation is not required even if you want to get a master’s degree from prestigious university in emerging field of artificial intelligence.
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