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This Alum Wants to Turn Your House into a Robot

Photo by Pixabay

You don’t need to talk to Lanny Lin for very long before you learn what his passion is.

“I’m looking forward to having everybody—first starting with North America—have a smart home and make them feel this is such a wonderful experience that they cannot live without it,” Lin said.

Lin completed his PhD in computer science at BYU, researching artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-robot interaction under the advisement of Dr. Michael Goodrich. After receiving his degree in 2014, Lin became the principal data scientist at Vivint Smart Home.

“I consider a smart home a robot,” Lin said. “That’s why it totally fits with the research I have done at BYU because the house has sensors, actuators. It’s making decisions based on the data collected over time.”

Lin’s PhD dissertation investigated how to use an unmanned air vehicle to support wilderness search and rescue. Because wilderness search and rescue includes so many different challenges, Lin developed a broad range of skills to address these problems. Lin used Bayesian approaches to predict where missing persons might be found, designed algorithms to evaluate the best course of action, built a touchscreen interface for the search and rescue personnel, and performed a user study to justify his hypothesis on user interaction.

“It required a lot of different skills,” Lin said. “When I did my dissertation at BYU, I was allowed to work on many, many different pieces to solve this bigger problem, which was very useful.”

The varied approach Lin took toward his dissertation prepared him for working in industry.

“Once I graduated from BYU, I was able to deal with all these different aspects of solving a bigger problem,” Lin said. “In order to complete your degree at BYU’s CS department, you are required to touch different areas:  image, natural image processing, parallel processing, big data, AI, traditional machine learning, [and deep learning]. That’s another wonderful thing that BYU is doing to prepare its students to be ready for the real world.”

Lin takes satisfaction in knowing that his work has a large impact.

“Another thing that is exciting about my current work is that I’m dealing with real customers,” Lin said. “The decisions I make, especially good ones like additional smart services, make an impact for real customers in very short cycles. I could be pushing out something today that could be affecting over a million homes.”

Lin counts himself lucky for finding a job he loves so much. He hopes that other BYU graduates pursue careers they are passionate about.

“When you are pursuing something, make sure it is something you love, that you feel passionate about,” Lin said. “Then you’ll do well. You’ll figure out ways to improve yourself and you’ll enjoy yourself while doing that.”