Engineering team to be honored with Primetime Emmy Engineering Award

Rachel Freeman

At the upcoming 67th annual Engineering Emmy Awards, an engineering team from UT will be honored with the Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development award in Hollywood. 

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will present the award to Alan Bovik, an electrical and computer engineering professor, alumni Zhou Wang and Hamid Sheikh and collaborator Eero Simoncelli on Oct. 28. The team is the first academic group to receive the Primetime Emmy Engineering Award statuette since its inception in 1948. 

The team developed an advanced algorithm — the Structural Similarity (SSIM) Video Quality Measurement Model — to estimate human perception of video quality, according to a statement from UT. This technology predicts the human assessment of video quality to let video producers know how much to compress videos when they are transmitted. Due to its computational simplicity, SSIM is now the most widely used perceptual video quality measurement across the entertainment industry and has affected the viewing experience of millions of viewers around the world, according to the statement. 

The news of the team’s success came as a surprise for Bovik, who said he originally found out the team had won the award while brushing his teeth and reading his tablet. He turned to his “half-asleep” wife to say, “It looks like we’re going to Hollywood soon.”

“It was gratifying to receive the award,” Bovik said in an email. “It has been a labor of love over the past decade of my students and myself. The visibility our work is getting makes us all very happy.”

Fellow researcher Sheikh said the award was a “total” surprise.

“It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster,” Sheikh said in an email. “Most people don’t even think twice about the technology that goes into our devices, but there is a lot of blood, sweat and code that goes into making things work.”

Sheikh said the training that led to the award has provided him a base for his career.

“The great training I had at Al Bovik’s lab has been the foundation for which I’ve built my professional career,” Sheikh said. “I am sure winning the award will open up new avenues and opportunities to contribute in the future.”

Bovik’s colleague in the Cockrell electrical and computer engineering department, professor Robert Heath, offered his congratulations to Bovik and his team for their “stellar” achievement. 

“It is an amazing achievement to receive an Emmy award,” Heath said in an email. “[The research] has already had a substantial impact on video quality assessment. This is huge visibility for The University of Texas at Austin.”