Alumni Update | Issue Nine 2014
Arun Thomas
Prof Wei Xiang
Associate Professor
(Computer Systems Engineering)
University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba

PhD Telecommunications Engineering,
Institute for Telecommunications Research, 2004

A childhood passion for reading science fiction planted the seeds of a future career in computer systems engineering for Chinese-born researcher Professor Wei Xiang.
Thanks to an International Postgraduate scholarship from the University of South Australia, Prof Xiang began a journey that led him to working with 3D video technology, opening up a career in developing solutions for the delivery of rural and remote health care.

Prof Xiang, who grew up in China’s porcelain capital, Jingdezhen City, gained a Bachelor and Masters of Electrical Engineering from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu.

He came to Adelaide in 2000 to commence his PhD in telecommunications engineering, and recalls his first day at Mawson Lakes campus and the meeting with Prof Bill Crowley, who was his PhD co-supervisor.

“It was my first trip outside China. I remember very clearly the conversation I had with Bill. Later on I told him there were several things he was telling me that I didn’t understand, but I just kept on going,” says Prof Xiang.

“Receiving the scholarship was a life changing opportunity for me. I learned about not only the methodology, but the research culture and the language of research,” says Prof Xiang, who still maintains contact with his supervisors at Mawson Lakes.

Prof Xiang’s PhD work on coding for image transmission and video communications landed him his first role as Associate Lecturer in Computer Systems at the Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

Prof Xiang began looking applications for the video technology he was developing and the health sector offered greater research funding opportunities.

Stakeholder feedback showed that people living in rural and remote areas don’t have access to the same quality of health care as their city counterparts.

“It occurred to me that telecommunications can be used to deliver a much better health service over a distance,” says Prof Wei.

One of his key projects is glasses-free 3D video telemedicine technology which has the potential to vastly improve tele-health consultation between doctors and patients in remote areas. A prestigious Smart Futures Fellowship project has been awarded to him by the Queensland Government to research this innovative technology.

“We are proposing the world’s first glasses-free 3D telemedicine system which offers a number of advantages,” says Prof Xiang, who has been working with Blue Care, one of the largest residential health care organisations in the southern hemisphere.

For example, a patient with a wound post-surgery may have to travel many kilometres for weekly inspections to check if their wound is healing properly in what may only be a 2-3 minute consultation. With 3D video technology the patient can remain at home with a normal PC fitted with a pair of web cams and connects to the clinic via a wireline or wireless broadband connection. The inherent depth perception of the 3D band enables the doctor to see and measure the depth of the wound.

“Even though the patient is sitting at home hundreds of kilometres away the 3D technology makes it feel like the patient is sitting right there in front of you,” says Prof Xiang.

All you need is a fast internet connection, which will be delivered by the NBN, or through wireless networks in regions without an optical fibre network.

“The innovation of our research is also about transmitting large amounts of 3D signals at minimum bandwidth requirement. So we are trying to compress the signals significantly to make the 3D video signal more resilient to transmission errors,” Prof Xiang says.

Glasses-free 3D video technology potentially has a whole range of applications, including in distance education, the mining industry, and 3D gaming.

Prof Wei Xiang has been a visiting scholar at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and at the University of Mississippi in the USA. He was a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong on an Australian Government Endeavour Research Fellowship project.

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