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Fighting Crime and Improving Your YouTube Videos – All in a Day’s Work

Dr. Nikola Božinović (PhD ’06)

Nikola Božinović (PhD ’06) (left) poses with Anand Lal Shimpi, the founder and CEO of Anandtech, at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Nikola Božinović (PhD ’06) (left) poses with Anand Lal Shimpi, the founder and CEO of Anandtech, at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It wasn’t that long ago when, without witnesses or clear footage, criminals breaking and entering into a home could get away and never be caught.

Leave it to engineers like Dr. Nikola Božinović (PhD ’06) to help change that.

As vice president of engineering at the California-based software company, MotionDSP, Božinović is responsible for developing products that improve video using image-enhancement algorithms – part of a research field called super-resolution.

Watch video examples.

Software like MotionDSP’s Ikena is used by forensics and law enforcement authorities throughout the world to enhance low-quality videos and spot details like license plate numbers.

“After graduating, I was looking for an opportunity that was not necessarily your standard career path,” said Božinović, who joined MotionDSP in 2006 when it was still a start-up company. “I wanted something more hands on, and I found a chance to build something from scratch.”

MotionDSP has grown substantially since Božinović started. He has recruited engineers from his home country, Serbia, to join the now 18-person organization, and today, anyone at home can use the program, vReveal, to smooth out home movies before they’re posted on sites like YouTube. Recently, Božinović and MotionDSP were even featured in The New York Times.

As Božinović watches his company grow, he said that the most rewarding part of

his work comes from seeing the success stories.

Recently, a man from New York was wrongfully accused of armed robbery because he looked like the criminal on security footage. Božinović and his team were able to improve the resolution of the footage to show, beyond reasonable doubt, that the man in the video had a tattoo on his arm that the accused didn’t have.

“The most satisfaction I get comes from the customer feedback. It’s great to see our software being actively used in places where it makes a difference,” said Božinović, who has heard positive reactions from both government officials in the US and the Scotland Yard.

As a student at Boston University, he said that his experience prepared him for both the US business world and working with companies overseas.

“BU is a great international community. It’s really a global world so that perspective is almost as important as the technical side of the work,” said Božinović, whose products are available in over 60 countries.

ECE Professor Janusz Konrad, who Božinović credits for teaching him the fundamentals of video and image processing, remembers his student really embracing a collaboration they shared with the engineering team at the University of Nice in France. Rather than simply traveling to the country and beginning his research, Božinović added French to his busy BU course load before his trip.

“I wish all my students were like Nikola – proactive, unafraid and very energetic,” said Konrad, who has been keeping in touch with Božinović since graduation. “I can’t wait to hear what’s next.”

Though BU turned out to be a perfect fit for Božinović, he said he wasn’t convinced to attend until after he spoke with ECE Professor William Oliver, then the graduate chair of the department.

“Compared to other contacts, Bill was more involved, more personal – he was really great,” said Božinović.

When applying, Božinović and his wife, Mina Zdravković (PhD ’10), had been looking for graduate programs together – he in ECE and she in English. Helped by Mark Horenstein, then the engineering associate dean for research and graduate programs; Scott Whitaker, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate School; and Joan Kirkendall, associate provost of the Office of Sponsored Programs, Oliver went the extra mile to convince Božinović and Zdravković to co

me – and ensure they could afford the move from Serbia through financial assistance that included the Dean’s Fellowship.

It’s clear today that Božinović is very happy with their decision. He even helped convince his brother, Nenad (PhD’12) to attend.

“I couldn’t imagine a better match,” said Božinović. “What I’ve learned can be applied anywhere.”

Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)
October 2010