History

The booklet below was created for MERL's 25th anniversary in 2016. It summarizes many of the research topics pursued by MERL.

MERL was founded in Cambridge MA in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric CR&D. During the early and mid 1990s, MERL grew steadily to approximately 25 researchers. In the late 1990s, it tripled in size through merger with two other laboratories that were part of Mitsubishi Electric: a laboratory focused on software systems research and another on video and communications research. This consolidated all of Mitsubishi Electric's North American research in one organization creating the MERL that exists today.



Computer Vision research at MERL includes developments such as:

  • Generalized Belief Propagation, a fundamentally improved Belief Propagation algorithm that provides more accurate results with fewer convergence problems,
  • The first real-time face detection algorithm, which was later extended to face recognition, and
  • Highly efficient 3D reconstruction from multiple images.

Graphics research includes:

  • An ASIC chip that was the first system capable of rendering volume data (e.g., from a CAT scan machine) in real time,
  • Adaptively-Sampled Distance Fields (ADFs) a highly accurate and highly efficient, digital representation of shapes with both smoothly curved surfaces and surfaces with fine detail,
  • Saffron, a 2-dimensional application of ADFs that is best system for rendering high-quality scalable type on digital displays, and
  • An ADF-based Numerical-Control (NC) milling machine simulator that has high accuracy and low computational requirements.

Human Computer Interaction (HCI) research includes:

  • Diamond Park, the first distributed virtual environment allowing multiple geographically separated users to speak to each other and arbitrarily extend the virtual environment at runtime,
  • Diamond Touch, the first touch surface that allows multiple people to use their bare hands to simultaneously interact with the surface without interfering with each other, and
  • Spoken Query, a Pioneering voice search technology.

Video research includes:

  • Key parts of the first ASIC chip set capable of decoding US HDTV signals,
  • The first automatic video playback system that can locate sports highlights,
  • Innovative multi-view video coding research adopted by the H.264/AVC standard (which is the 3D format for Blu-ray Discs), and
  • A Novel scheme for rate reduction of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data that maintains reconstruction quality.

Communications research includes:

  • Pioneering ad-hoc networking research adopted by the Zigbee low cost, low power, wireless network standard,
  • The first Ultra Wide Band (UWB) impulse radio communication approach based on multi-band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM),
  • Ten key technologies adopted by the impulse-radio-based, IEEE 802.15.4a, Ultra Wide Band (UWB) standard and the first precise location system using that standard,
  • Eleven key technologies adopted by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Long Term Evolution (LTE) cell phone standard,
  • Ultra-Reliable wireless communication with a loss rate of 10-8 which is comparable to wired communication, and
  • World's first 1 Terabit per second optical receiver.

Optimization and Control research includes:

  • IISVD, an Extremely fast incremental approximate Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) usable on Incomplete and Uncertain data,
  • Electric Railway power optimization using variable substation voltage to maximize power sharing between decelerating and accelerating trains,
  • Efficient spacecraft trajectories, saving significant amounts of fuel, and
  • The best algorithm for reconstructing a digital surface map from Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data.

Other notable research items from past years include:

  • MidART, Simple and easy to use middleware supporting high-speed, network-based, distributed real-time systems such as factory automation systems,
  • Concordia, world-class middleware for collaborating mobile agents and
  • Pioneering analog ASIC circuits that perform calculations customarily done by digital circuits while using much less power.

MERL continues vibrant research in all of the main areas above; however, over the years the emphasis between areas has changed. In the late 1990s, Computer Graphics was MERL's greatest area of focus. Today that honor goes to Optimization and Control.