NRL's Jim Templeman Selected for Outstanding Navy Employee with Disabilities Award

2/5/2007 - 7-07w
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Dr. Jim Templeman, head of the Immersive Simulation Section in the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence at the Naval Research Laboratory, is the recipient of the Outstanding Department of the Navy (DoN) Employee with Disabilities Award. This award is given annually to recognize the contributions and achievements made by disabled DoN employees.

Born without arms, Dr. Templeman leads a research team that develops novel user interfaces for 3D interactive computer systems. He first became interested in user interfaces as a graduate student at George Washington University when Professor Jim Foley, an expert in computer graphics and user interfaces, encouraged him to explore the field. Dr. Templeman then worked in industry on user interfaces for nine years before returning to GW to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science.

Dr. Templeman has naturally developed fine motor skills, using his feet to perform normal tasks such as typing, writing, drawing, using tools and assembling equipment. He also drives a car using foot controls. In his office at NRL, Dr. Templeman's computer and monitor are placed on a low table in front of a couch, with the keyboard on the floor. He does require some help from co-workers when it comes to donning the head-mounted display equipment and other gear used in his immersive simulation lab, but otherwise requires little assistance at work.

While he has certain limitations, Dr. Templeman attributes his disability with providing insight into how to build novel user interfaces. Having to adapt to operating things designed for one- and two-handed manipulation has led him to see alternative means of interacting with the world, which fits in neatly with his research in user interface development.

Dr. Templeman's group has developed a breakthrough virtual locomotion control named Gaiter. Gaiter lets a person move through a virtual environment (VE) by walking-in-place, as opposed to using a joystick, thus allowing the warfighter to hold his weapon while training in a virtual simulation. The person can move in any direction and control the length and rate of steps in the virtual world. By allowing a person to control his or her movement through the VE in a manner similar to walking in the real world, virtual locomotion affords a person's natural ability to coordinate walking with other body motions like turning the head to look around or using the hands to manipulate virtual objects. Other interaction techniques like virtual shooting and opening a door are implemented in a way that demands the same skill, timing, and exposure to threats as those actions normally entail in the real world. These simulations provide a more natural and realistic interface for the military to use in training programs and are being developed for Marine infantry simulation.

Dr. Templeman received a B.S. in electrical engineering, and an M.S. and D.Sc. in computer science, all from George Washington University in Washington, DC. As an undergraduate, he received the School of Engineering and Applied Science Distinguished Scholar Award, the Electronics and Aerospace Systems Conference Scholar Award, Tau Beta Pi's Outstanding Sophomore Award, and the James McBride Sterett Prize. As a doctoral student, he was selected as the Achievement Rewards for College Students (ARCS) National Scholar of 1987.

Dr. Templeman's work is internationally recognized. He has spoken at ACM SIGGRAPH and IEEE VR conferences and is an associate editor of Presence, a journal about tele-operation and virtual environments. Dr. Templeman holds one patent and has three pending for interface controls that allow a person to control his or her movement through virtual environments in more natural ways. In 1999, Dr. Templeman received an NRL Technology Transfer Award for Achievements in Science and Engineering. He is a member of Sigma Xi and the Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Groups on Computer-Human Interaction and Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

Prior to his federal service, Dr. Templeman co-founded a small consulting company specializing in graphical user interfaces. During that time, he turned his undergraduate senior design project, a computer game employing a novel approach to machine learning, into a product called FORTRESS. It was one of the first games that involved playing an adaptively learning opponent. The game was published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. and later sub-licensed in Japan by Victor Musical.

Outside of NRL, Dr. Templeman volunteers at the Fairfax County Juvenile Detention Center, where he works with the juveniles to help teach mind-body coordination, centering and Ki breathing techniques in association with the Northern Virginia Ki Aikido Dojo.

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