Academic profiles: Heikki Huttunen - Business Tampere
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Associate Professor Heikki Huttunen focuses on applied AI. Teaching is his calling, and he is proud to see his students become professionals who are sought after by companies. TUT students tend to find good jobs. He’s also the Partner and Board Member at Visy Ltd., a company  specializing in gate automation and access control solutions that are in use all around the world.

What are the main focus areas of your research?

– Me and my research group focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning systems. That is, we study image and audio signals and recognize various patterns in them for further use in applications. ’Applied AI’ is a very good description.

Heikki Huttunen and his research team at Tampere University of Technology
Heikki Huttunen and his research team. Photo: TUT photobank

Tell us more about your team at TUT

– My research group is international like TUT in general. The team is still young but in a few years they will already be more seasoned and capable professionals. There is a high demand for such people in the industry, and I count it a success if my team members are employed by the industry in the future – as much as I would like to see them with long careers in academia.

– Our group is aiming at agility: when someone comes to us with an idea, we can pilot it swiftly and practically to see, what can be made of it.

What are some of the challenges you are trying to solve?

– Things like detecting person’s age from a video stream, monitoring traffic in ports, environmental recognition for autonomous vehicles or people tracking, just to mention a few. Tampere has a strong ecosystem of intelligent work machines, and we are especially interested in helping solve challenges for them.

Examples of business research partners and projects?

– The biggest thing at the moment is a MIDAS project that was launched in summer 2018. It focuses on artificial intelligence and is Finland’s first industry-oriented machine learning project. The participants are aiming to put academical breakthroughs into industrial practice, like creating new features for Glaston tempering machines or for Novatron machine control systems.

– All my projects are carried out in cooperation with companies. I think it is because of my entrepreneurial background that I truly want to see my research results put into practice.

How are you changing the world with your work?

– Teaching has always been my calling. I like working with people and seeing them grow from young students to professionals who are sought after by companies. Our students tend to find good jobs, and they are an asset for their employers. Machine learning at TUT has grown in popularity every year, which means we can now choose our students from the best.

How do you see the future?

– There are great expectations for machine learning, and as usual, they are overestimated in the short run and underestimated in the long run. There will be disappointments in the near future but I think later most of the expectations can be fulfilled.

– Our research helps make intelligent work machines more efficient and at the same time more environmentally friendly. Think for example electric container cranes or autonomous electric cargo ships and their potential to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions while saving costs and increasing productivity.

A little more about you…

– I’ve been teaching around 15 years and still do, of course. I started as an Associate Professor at TUT about a year ago, which means more research and building my AI research group.

– My years in Visy have given me a broader understanding of the entrepreneur’s point of view, for example how the university appears as a potential partner for a company or how important role research might play as a company’s competitive advantage.

– My family consists of my wife and my son, who just started the first grade this autumn. It went well for him, thanks to the good ground made in pre-school. As we know, the Finnish educational system is of good quality from start to finish.

 What is the fondest memory in your career so far?

– I’ve already talked about teaching, so how about this: I participated in the 2017 Science Slam Tampere competition. It is an event in which contestants have ten minutes each to present their research for a non-expert but science-loving audience.

– So there I was, on the main stage of a legendary music venue YO-talo, the place was packed, people were listening to me, applauding, cheering – and then voted for me so I won the competition. Something to remember, I think.

Author: Päivi Stenroos

More information

Heikki Huttunen, Tampere University of Technology

Heikki Huttunen

Associate Professor at Laboratory of Signal Processing, Tampere University of Technology (TUT)


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