Mitchell Baller – Imaging Science Software Engineer

Jan 23, 2024 | Company Culture | 0 comments

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Summary

We love working with students and internships are a core part of our team growth strategy. We are pleased to announce hiring Mitchell Baller full time as an Imaging Science Software Engineer.

Circle Optics is thrilled to announce a significant milestone in our journey of growth and innovation. We have recently transitioned our very first intern into a full-time role within our company. This marks a momentous occasion for us, as it reflects our commitment to nurturing talent and fostering a culture where potential is recognized, cultivated, and seamlessly integrated into the fabric of our team. Please join us in welcoming Mitchell Baller, Imaging Software Engineer. Adding him to our team is a testament to our belief in providing opportunities for growth and development, and it reinforces our dedication to building a team that is not only skilled but also deeply aligned with our vision and values. We are excited to continue this journey, working together to innovate, inspire, and redefine the boundaries of what’s possible. 

Director of Imaging Science and Software Engineering, Peter Stubler comments “Mitchell is an outstanding addition to our team. He has a sharp analytical mind and creatively finds ways to understand and overcome the roadblocks that would otherwise slow us down.” 

We recently talked to him about his transition from graduate to full-time employee. 

Share a bit about your background and how you got to Circle Optics

The pandemic was a catalyst for change, shifting the trajectory of my professional life. Dissatisfaction with my role in a large manufacturing company left me yearning for a role that fully utilized my skills. It was then that I discovered a master’s program at Georgia Tech, touted on a podcast by the Dean of the College of Computing. The program’s allure was undeniable, offering the rigor of an in-person degree, yet it was fully online and significantly more accessible financially. With limited savings, the traditional route of an on-campus program was out of reach. However, the affordability of this online master’s program opened new doors. Taking a leap of faith, I applied, was accepted, and resigned from my corporate IT position. Immersing myself fully, I pursued the Master’s of Science in Computer Science, with a focus on computational perception and robotics at Georgia Tech, for two semesters before an opportunity at Circle Optics emerged. 

Joining Circle Optics as an intern marked a new beginning. My role has been dynamic, juggling part-time and full-time work with academic pursuits. Recently, I even took a hiatus to concentrate on completing my master’s degree. This journey has been nothing short of transformative, both personally and professionally. 

Now that I completed my degree, I am able to join Circle Optics full-time as Imaging Software Engineer. My role encompasses not just image processing, but also the intricate coordination of camera systems, data management, and the execution of sophisticated image processing pipelines. The essence of my work lies in synchronizing multiple cameras, streamlining data transfer, and collaborating closely with various technological systems. This hybrid role marries the technicalities of imaging science with the broader scope of software engineering, making it a unique and fulfilling challenge. 

What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on at Circle Optics, and how do they advance the field of imaging science? 

One of the most formidable tasks I encountered was the calibration of a telescope camera system. The nature of this system is unique – it’s designed to focus on distant objects, miles away. However, the calibration process typically necessitates precise identification and alignment of real-world points with the camera’s sensor, a task that becomes increasingly complex when the subject is out of the telescope’s focus range. 

During my internship, a significant portion of my time was dedicated to devising a methodology for calibrating this telescope at much closer distances than its usual focus range. This process was intricate and demanded a novel approach, given the unique requirements of the system. The details of this process are currently under the patent process, and while it’s a pivotal aspect of our work, the specifics are something we need to navigate cautiously in discussions, given the sensitivity and potential proprietary nature of the techniques involved. 

Additionally, the work on the Hydra II system has been both demanding and rewarding. This project is not just a potential game-changer for our company but also promises to make significant strides in the VR space. Interestingly, the primary challenge in this project wasn’t rooted in image processing or imaging science but rather in the realm of software engineering. The endeavor to synchronize multiple cameras and ensure their seamless operation was far from straightforward. The cameras, quite frustratingly, were not performing as expected, leading to many painstaking hours of troubleshooting and problem-solving. 

Hydra is the original stitch-less 360° camera-system that we are iterating

This hands-on experience with the Hydra II system and the calibration of the telescope camera has been instrumental in my development. It’s a vivid illustration of the complexity and multidimensionality of challenges in the field of imaging and software engineering. The journey has been as much about technical innovation as it has been about perseverance, problem-solving, and collaborative effort. Each challenge, while daunting, has been a valuable lesson and an opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible in our field. 

Share a particularly challenging problem you encountered and how you approach solving it

A major challenge was the timing issues with the cameras. Here, I leveraged the skills I acquired during my master’s degree, particularly in Python and data visualization. By plotting the data and visually outlining the problem, we could break down this complex issue into manageable segments. This process was not just about fixing a problem but about understanding it in granular detail. 

Framing a failure is an essential part of the problem-solving process. It’s about dissecting a seemingly insurmountable issue into smaller, understandable components and tackling each one systematically. It’s a process that transforms a problem into a learning experience. Knowing precisely what the issue is demystifies it, turning a hurdle into a stepping-stone for growth and innovation. This mindset isn’t just about technical troubleshooting; it’s a philosophy that can be applied to any complex challenge, making it a fundamental aspect of our work and growth at Circle Optics. 

 
What are the emerging trends in imaging science? 

 

The landscape of AR/VR technology is more promising than ever, and it’s thrilling to be part of it. Despite the long-standing narrative that AR/VR is just around the corner—a sentiment echoed since the nineties—it seems like we’re finally witnessing the realization of that prediction. Major players like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Apple are pouring substantial resources into these technologies, which is a strong testament to their belief in the potential of AR/VR. 

Particularly interesting is the evolution of hardware. The advancements in screen resolution within VR headsets are groundbreaking. Apple’s Vision Pro, for instance, touts retina screens, offering a visual experience where individual pixels are indiscernible. This level of detail in a headset is unprecedented and transformative. Similarly, Meta’s recent release of the Quest three represents another significant leap in resolution. These developments by major tech giants not only signify a robust investment in AR/VR but also herald advancements in screen resolution and processing power. 

At Circle Optics, our position is uniquely advantageous in this evolving landscape. We are on the brink of perfecting the Hydra two system, which I believe will be the premier camera system for capturing 360° video. The alignment of our technology with the needs of these high-resolution platforms puts us at the forefront of content creation for AR/VR, enabling us to collaborate with the biggest names in the industry. 

While the AR/VR domain is my primary focus and source of excitement, I’m also cognizant of the other facets of our company’s technology, like autonomous aircraft systems and their ‘detect and avoid’ capabilities. Although my knowledge in that area is more limited, the potential for innovation and the application of our technology in those domains is equally thrilling. It’s clear that our technology is not just keeping pace but is poised to set new standards and redefine possibilities in both AR/VR content creation and autonomous navigation systems. 

What advice do you have for those interested in pursuing a career in imaging science?

Malcom Gladwell’s concept of putting in your ‘10,000 hours’ to achieve mastery in a field resonated deeply with me and was instrumental in my transition from corporate IT to this exhilarating role at a dynamic company like Circle Optics. The emphasis on accumulating experience, or ‘getting your reps in,’ was pivotal. It instilled a profound confidence in my abilities, particularly in coding and leveraging technology to bring ideas to fruition. 

My journey through the master’s degree was crucial in this respect. While it offered a structured environment with guidance, it also demanded a high degree of self-direction and initiative. The nature of a master’s program is such that while you are provided with direction, the onus of learning and exploring is largely on you. This balance of guidance and autonomy was the perfect catalyst for growth. 

Moreover, the commitment to the program, both in terms of time and finances, added an extra layer of motivation. The pressure to make the most of this investment drove me to dive deeply into my studies and projects. This period was marked by intense learning and prolific output—I undertook dozens, if not hundreds, of challenging projects, each contributing to my ‘10,000 hours’ of practice. 

This relentless pursuit of experience and expertise during my master’s program was not just about fulfilling academic requirements. It was about honing my skills, expanding my capabilities, and building a robust portfolio of projects. This experience laid a strong foundation, giving me the confidence and competence to embark on this exciting journey with Circle Optics and contribute meaningfully to our innovative endeavors. 

  
read More About Mitchell Baller

You can read more about Mitchell Baller from an earlier spotlight when he joined Circle Optics as an Intern. 

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