Maximilian Riesenhuber, 33
Programs computers to recognize objects the way the human brain does
The human brain can recognize a dog as a dog, but teaching a computer that trick is daunting. As an MIT postdoc, Max Riesenhuber researched the brain’s object recognition processed, then led a team that wrote software to mimic them. Called HMAX, the program is accurate enough to save physiologists time and money in studying brain disorders. To test the model, researchers might show it an illustration of a composite creature, such as a catlike dog. HMAX categorizes the animal’s features as more or less catlike or doglike, sums those probabilities, and issues judgments remarkably consistant with human subjects’. Now, scientists are using HMAX to craft better experiments to help explain brain disorders like prosopagnosia- the inability to recognize faces. Unraveling such afflictions is Riesenhuber’s main goal. But his software also advances computers’ ability to recognize objects , a key to artificial intelligence. HMAX might even help recognize satellite images. Riesenhuber, founder of MIT’s Motorcycle Club, is also a principal of GeoPhoenix in Cambridge, MA, which markets a handheld computer interface that can access content by zooming and panning, helping users navigate small screens.