Srikar Mutnuri ACM SIGGRAPH Member Profile

Member Profile: Srikar Mutnuri

What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I’m an engineer at heart with around eight years of experience since undergrad. I worked on building a lot of things, including mobile apps, games, websites, and AR/VR applications. At USC, I’ve been involved in research into ML with graphs, networks & 3D rendering, and in hardware for haptics.

Somewhere along this ride, I realized my core interest in tapping into emerging technologies to improve accessibility, and I try to find ways to do this with every project I take up.

What was your first job?

My first full-time job was right after undergrad where I worked as a developer with Tata Consultancy Services on big data and immersive tech in their Interactive unit.

This role exposed me to a diverse range of domains, from retail to banking, manufacturing, and healthcare, allowing me to work closely with clients on real-world problems, and draw knowledge from subject matter experts across industries. It was early during this time that I had my captivating first encounter with VR, which spurred my interest in developing for it.

Where did you complete your formal education?

I did my bachelor’s from Gitam Deemed University in Visakhapatnam (India), and master’s from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USA).

I majored in Electrical Engineering, with a focus on image/signal processing and ML along with a bit of hardware. I think this allowed me to get a low-level understanding of most of the tech we use, which is proving to be super useful in more ways than I can count.

How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I’ve been closely following SIGGRAPH proceedings for a few years now, and they’ve been invaluable in my own learning. But it was always after the fact through papers or blog posts.

The 2023 SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles was my first time seeing things as they happen. I’ve always wanted to attend in-person and joining the 50th one was very special!

What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

I’d say it was meeting the pioneers of the field I grew to love. I’ve studied their work as a student, and talking with them is an incredible memory I’d cherish.

Describe a project that you would like to share with the ACM SIGGRAPH community.

It would be a recent project where we used Unreal Engine to procedurally generate synthetic datasets for wildfire tracking and prediction.

Wildfires can rapidly spread and endanger property and lives, making early detection and tracking critical. But collecting sufficient real-world wildfire image data is challenging. Modern game engines with their enhanced rendering capabilities can fill this void.

Our approach focused on creating expansive, realistic environments with modular parameters to simulate various conditions in UE4. We incorporated particle-based fire effects using its physics engine and captured this data for ML model training & inference. Potential extensions could include the addition of fire spread dynamics to map how fire travels through a region and use this info for mitigation.

While our focus is on wildfires, we can adopt a similar approach to a lot more areas (like hurricanes or earthquakes) for efficient disaster management.

If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

Probably a bit cheesy to say this, but can it be a banquet? There are so many amazing people I want to meet across multiple fields, it’s hard to pick one person!

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I trained as a vocalist in the Carnatic tradition of Indian Classical music as a kid. While I stopped pursuing it seriously, I think that early exposure significantly enriched my appreciation of music across genres. I often try to go back to those roots, especially when listening to some of my favorite musicians.

From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

I’ve been fortunate to learn from a multitude of individuals, including my family, teachers, and friends. These lessons have directly or indirectly covered a wide spectrum of topics, and I believe that the saying ‘It takes a village’ holds true for me, as I’ve gained invaluable insights from this collective wisdom.

Is there someone who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I’d say it’s the whole community – the passion they show to the field is simply inspiring and serves as a constant motivator for my own contributions.

What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

I’m just getting started, and I think there’s a long road ahead of me where I hope to make some impact, and most probably fail a lot (or get stuck in some local minima).

So, while I can’t (yet) point to a proudest moment, what truly motivates me is witnessing the tangible impact of my work, whether it’s an app I contributed to or a bug I successfully resolved. These, no matter how small, serve as the driving force behind my ongoing journey.