Master Interviews in 2022
3D pedestrian route choices and my research days
£with laboratory members@at summer school
Eiji: Where are you from?
Shen: I'm from Zhejiang Province. It's a city with a long history,
and my university is Chang'an University in Xi'an. I majored in
Transportation Science, and when I was an undergraduate, I worked
on pedestrian-vehicle interaction, modeling and simulating
pedestriansf decision process using Decision Field, a psychological
theory, and published a paper on it. This experience made me find
that the pedestrian is an interesting object of study, as their
routes are flexible, often unconstrained by traffic facilities,
and their decisions are often dynamic, easily be influenced by
Eiji: Why did you come to Japan?
Shen: When I first started in the field of pedestrian traffic,
I read some papers by Japanese scholars, and some of them are
(maybe were) working at the University of Tokyo. Also, Tokyo is
a charming city: itfs well developed with high-tech companies
and clean streets; and has a traditional culture similar to
China, as well as many interesting subcultures, such as games
Eiji: While there are still many foreign students who cannot
enter Japan, Mohammed-san came to Japan once, but now he is
continuing his studies in Lahore.
Shen: Yes, Ifm lucky to have the opportunity to study in Japan
during COVID-19. It was very difficult at first, I wasnft sure
when the COVID-19 would ease off and when the Japanese Government
would open for foreign students. Although the university and your
lab had provided me with a nice environment for distance learning
and research as possible, I was really worried that I might have
to spend the whole two years in China and complete my master's
degree online. If so, Ifll miss out on so many interesting
experiences and lose some opportunities for personal growth.
Because in my opinion studying abroad is not only about studying
and research, it is also important to experience the local life
and culture and to interact with people from different backgrounds.
I finally arrived in Japan in November of my M1. I stayed in a
hotel for a week after I arrived... The window of the hotel is
my first impression of Japan. (laughs).
Eiji: Oh, I see. So that's how it was.
Shen: When I came to the University of Tokyo for the first time,
Koseki-san showed me around the Hongo campus, itfs very beautiful!
And the lab members gave me a welcome sushi party, which made me
feel at home. The lectures were different from professor to
professor and the way of examinations was also different in
COVID-19. Due to the risk of infection in organizing offline
exams, most courses were graded in the form of reports, which
allowed me to put into practice what I had learnt in class in
small projects. It was very interesting, but anyway I had the
impression that time passed very quickly because I was learning
new knowledge and skills online. For my master's research, I
worked on a pedestrian model in 3D urban space using
multi-sensors, as it was close to the theme I had done in China.
Eiji: How difficult was your research?
Shen: In my research, we observe pedestrian travel behavior
with multi-sensors and formulate observation equations. At
the same time, we estimate the parameters of the behavioural
model and conduct simulations. Data processing involving some
machine learning approaches is challenging, but the most
difficult part is the optimization method. I spent a lot of
time learning discrete choice models from scratch, which is
quite different from the model I used in my previous lab in
Eiji: How did you learn it?
Shen: The start-up seminar led me to understand the research
theories used in this lab. Also, the reading seminar organized
by Arai and ogawa in the summer vacation of M1 helped me a lot.
As for the Recursive Logit model, I read the Fosgeraufs paper
and related papers published by your lab. The papers by Oyama
and Eiji are easy to read, and the archives of the presentations
at our theoretical debates were very helpful. Also, I am very
grateful to Kobayashi and suga for answering my questions on
Eiji: It's nice to have different mathematical methodologies
running together in our lab, so we can learn from each other
and stimulate each other's research. How was your coding
Shen: When I was in China, I mainly used off-the-shelf machine
learning algorithm packages to process images and get
trajectories, and the programming requirements were limited to
the pre-processing of the data. But in this lab, we wrote the
code by ourselves. It was challenging but interesting. To
complete my masterfs thesis I have to try to write some
algorithms by my own.
Eiji: What was interesting?
Shen: I liked the part about link switching more than machine
learning, I didnft finish it until the last week before the DDL
of master thesis. I wrote the code for switching in the
pre-processing of route data from scratch by myself, looking
at Oyama-san's algorithm, and I was really happy and relieved
to have done that.
Eiji: What do you think of the potential of machine learning?
In the ACT-X project, where I am on the committee, and at the
Next Generation AI Center, is a programming exercise every
year, and there is a big difference between those who can
achieve a completely new coupling of machine learning and
theiroxn topic, and those who can only come up with a mere
comparative methodology with an exam-like approach.
Shen: Machine learning is certainly in vogue these days. A lot
of researchers are working on it. Then, the key is how to
improve machine learning, how to adapt it to different
research scenarios and data structures. I think preprocessing
is more important. I felt the same way in my master's research.
Eiji: I see. What is your impression of Japan? You're in the
minority in Japan, and you've had a hard time?
Shen: Evangelion. When I was a child and I saw Eva for the
first time, it was very different from normal anime. As a
child I was scared. But it was one of the first images I had
of Japan. In both the anime and the film, Shinji, the main
character, is a controversial character who is not a typical
hero: he does not have a strong will and is even cowardly,
always running away from his responsibilities. But that's
what makes him so real, he is our friend, he is close to us.
Eiji: Even if you want to run away from reality, whether it
is your thesis or job hunting, it is human nature that you
cannot. It is a feeling that we all have.
Shen: I think so. I think there is a heroism in Shinji. Hefs
running away from himself, running away from responsibility,
and he led to Third Impact, and that was the mistake he made.
But in the last choice, he stood up to the responsibility he
had feared, to the irretrievable and dire consequences he
had caused, and that was very valuable. This is heroism for
the common man.
Eiji: In my own experience, studying abroad is like resetting
the past in a way, isn't it? There are things you can only
understand when you feel as if the past has been cut off. But
Eva's story made me realize that in the end, we are connected
to our daily lives and reality. We can never restart like in
a game. Eva ends with a scene from Anno's hometown, Ube. What
was it about the Japanese landscape that made such an impression
Shen: My impression of Japan is in COVID-19, so it's mostly
Tokyo. I like jogging since I came to Tokyo, itfs a safe way to
enjoy the scene of streets of Tokyo, and because of my research
theme, I also enjoyed seeing people running and walking around
the streets of Tokyo. I used to run about 5km from Hongo campus
every week. (laughs). Taketomi Island was also beautiful. I'm
glad we could travel there together. On the island, we rode in
an ox-cart and sang folk songs together. I was also impressed
by the starry sky we saw on the seaside bridge at night.
Eiji: I'm glad I went there at that time.
Shen: When I graduate, I want to go on a trip and see the cherry
blossoms in Kyoto. So I'm going to stay in Japan until April.
Laughs: After that, I will work on research into automated
driving. I want to continue my research on traffic, on the
interaction between pedestrians and vehicles.
Eiji: Research on interaction is just like the world of Eva,
where emotions and reactions change as the environment changes.
I think it would be fun to do research that goes beyond mere
image processing. Recursive itself, which involves mutual
decision-making, also changes, so it could develop into a
problem of game, equilibrium and estimation of behaviour, which
could lead to doctoral research. Finally, if there is anything
you would like to say, please do so.
Shen: My first impression of you was a YouTube video talking
about the Olympics, in which you were a typical engineering
professor, serious, erudite, and intoxicated with research.
But when I came to Japan and met you, I saw some more aspects
of you in real life and seminars. You like comics, would
discuss the Olympic table tennis competition with me, would
talk about the responsibilities of the young generation and
the vision of the future after the seminar. Ifm glad to be
supervised by an interesting and charming person. I had a
hard time finishing my graduation thesis, the support of you
and other lab members really encouraged me, thank you very much.