[Life@Samsung] Developing a Future That’s Stranger Than FictionShare open/close
Sergei Sudakov, a young software engineer, considers his position a dream job—generating ideas and solutions. The more far-out the better. The 27-year-old research engineer, from the R&D team of Samsung Electronics’ Visual Display Business, plays a pivotal role in developing advanced software to enable the next generation of consumer electronics visual display products and services.
“We work on the advanced stuff, the stuff no one knows about yet,” said Sudakov. “Maybe some of it will be implemented in one year or five years from now. Or, maybe it won’t be used at all.”
“We work on the advanced stuff,
the stuff no one knows about yet,”
Solutions That Work
Working primarily in algorithm research and technology planning, Sudakov might spend an entire week reading scientific journals or watching hours of TV content. His work can also go in surprising new directions.
Take his involvement in Sports Mode, for example. This Samsung Smart TV feature utilizes video and audio processing to record game highlights and optimizes the picture by enhancing the vividness and sharpness of the playing field. Its Stadium Sound component lets viewers feel as if they’re actually sitting in the crowd and watching the game. While working on this unique TV mode, Sudakov figured out how to make an entirely different feature work.
Various teams had been trying to come up with a sports-related feature that would allow someone to change channels during the commercials of a game, but be notified when the game resumes. Sudakov was able to improve on their efforts and thought up a new way for the smart TV to analyze the channels with the sporting event, which allowed the function to work properly.
“Sometimes the problems are obvious and easy to fix,” he said. “But sometimes it takes days to find the root of the issue. Even if you know where the problem is, it isn’t always immediately evident how to solve or even slightly improve it. But when your solution works, you can feel really proud.”
Sci-Fi Becomes Reality
Sudakov says he is sometimes personally inspired by science fiction. A big fan of the genre, he just finished reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for the third time and watched the latest Star Wars installment on the first day it was released. “Sometimes when I see certain technologies in science fiction, I think about how I could re-create them, and occasionally, I can even come up with an answer,” he said.
Not all of the seemingly imaginary technology of Hollywood blockbusters is fiction, however. Machine learning, for example, is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed, and is one of Sudakov’s interests. The concept was a big theme in films such as Ex Machina, Her, and Transcendence, where computers learn to think for themselves and even develop human emotions. While the concept may seem farfetched, the technology is already being utilized in smartphone voice recognition, web search engines and self-driving cars—technologies that are becoming more and more commonplace. “There’s so much machine learning in the modern world that people use it dozens of times per day without even knowing it,” Sudakov said. “The technology will outperform humans very soon.”
But it’s not there yet and there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out. Overcoming these obstacles can be an arduous task for software and research engineers like Sudakov, who spend their days going through endless trial-and-error, reading, fine-tuning their developing skills and constantly learning more in an attempt to keep up with the current research. “This is what research is all about—searching for regularities in data and ways to use them to create a solution,” Sudakov said. “There’s no one perfect answer. Even if I have an answer, there’s always a better one that I don’t know about yet.”
Keeping It Interesting
Sudakov’s quest for knowledge began at a very young age in his hometown of Khimki, Russia—a city that became home to several Soviet aerospace development centers after World War II. Like many residents of the area, both his parents are aerospace engineers, and as such, Sudakov often found himself surrounded by the sciences growing up. As a child, he used to attend the annual International Aviation and Space Show in Moscow as an unofficial exhibition member with his father.
“All of the exhibitors were surprised to see a small child there, so they would let me experience all the cool stuff, like the flight training and war simulators,” he recalled.
His interest didn’t turn to software development, though, until his high school years, when a young and enthusiastic informatics teacher changed the way he looked at computers. That professor focused the class curriculum on more “absorbing” subjects, such as 3D modeling and real programming—areas that required creativity in addition to technical know-how.
One of the more influential moments that made Sudakov realize his career aspirations was when he and his classmates were encouraged to participate in a creative engineering competition. Guided by his teacher, he learned how to program images and animations, then was given the freedom to create his own program. Sudakov earned a third-place prize for his virtual fortune telling ball, which provided random answers to people’s questions about their future. “My professor taught us that everything you do should be interesting,” Sudakov said. “If it’s not interesting, you will never be able to do your best. If you want to do something special, you must make it interesting in the first place.”
“If it’s not interesting,
you will never be able to do your best.
If you want to do something special,
you must make it interesting
in the first place.”
Before graduating, he began working as a research developer at his university’s Graphics and Media Lab, working primarily in computer vision, a field that includes methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing, and understanding images from the real world in order to produce numerical or symbolic information. After two additional stints in the same field, he was recruited by Samsung to research and generate ideas and solutions for various visual display products and services.
Predicting the Future
Currently, Sudakov’s team is creating systems that will allow consumers to communicate with their televisions in new, simplified ways. Rather than being a device solely used for viewing content, Sudakov hopes the television will be a connected, integrated appliance that can do all the things users need them to do. Soon enough, he believes, the TV will understand much more about the content it displays, will be voice-activated, and could potentially play a central role in the Internet of Things.
But considering that these features, as well as the products and services his team is working on, won’t be available for some time, it can be extremely difficult to anticipate what kinds of technology consumers actually want and need.
“I think it’s very inspirational to be a part of such a rapidly changing world and I hope to use my knowledge to make it an even better place. Even if just a few people look at what I’ve done and say, ‘Wow! This is the future!’ then I’ll be happy.”
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