Meet ML@GT: Sean Foley, A Master of Dungeons and Dragons and Annotation

Sean Foley


The Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech (ML@GT) is home to many talented students from across campus, representing all six Georgia Tech colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

These students have diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of interests, both inside and outside of the classroom. Today, we’d like you to meet Sean Foley, an avid Dungeons and Dragons player who is soaking up the present day.

Name: Sean Foley

Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.

Tell us about your research:

My current research lies in accelerating the annotation of videos. I work on a system that helps people label data more easily, with the hope of saving researchers time and money. I’m also very interested in advancing the understanding of how work should be divided between humans and machines during supervised learning.

Longer term, I'm interested in understanding context from videos, and being able to learn from a few examples rather than thousands, as these are two areas that reveal the shortcomings of modern machine learning techniques vis-a-vis human ability. I'm also interested in environmental and social applications of computer vision, particularly for analytics at a large scale.

Advisor: James Hays, associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing

Current Georgia Tech degree program: I’m a second-year machine learning Ph.D. student and my home school is the School of Interactive Computing

Other degrees earned:

I have a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.A. in Cognitive Science, both from the University of Georgia.

Favorite conference and why:

CVPR. It’s the only conference I have been to and it was awesome. I hope to go to many more!

Describe your perfect Saturday:

My perfect Saturday is playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends. I've been running D&D for about three years now and it's a blast.

Favorite place to hang out on campus or in Atlanta and why:

I honestly love my house a lot and I enjoy hosting people. Some other favorites are Amelie’s, Wayaga, and Dr. Bombay’s, and Waffle House. Piedmont Park is nice and spacious. As far as campus goes, I’m almost always in the lab.

Tell us about your hobbies:

I play classical guitar. And, I love playing video games and reading science fiction. I also run a Dungeons and Dragons group which takes up a lot of my time with planning campaigns, drawing maps, and piecing together the story.

Favorite Georgia Tech experience:

My labmates are really fun and we often have game nights at my advisor's house, which is fun and cozy.

Who is someone that inspires you and why?

Ursula LeGuin is a constant source of inspiration to me. She was an incredibly wise person and her mind was a gift to the world.

What is your proudest accomplishment? 

Professionally, my proudest accomplishment is my work with Berkeley Deep Drive on Scalabel, as it was my first huge software engineering project.

My proudest accomplishment personally is my D&D group. It's been going on for almost three years and has been a great way to keep my college friends in touch with each other.

What is the most random or useless talent that you have?

I can crabwalk REALLY fast. Picture the fastest you can imagine someone crab walking, then double it.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I hope to go into academia because I've always enjoyed teaching and the academic research environment is rigorous but fun.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Definitely Talenti ice cream. Salted caramel is my favorite flavor, but they're all so good.

What are you most looking forward to in the next ten years?

In the next ten years, I'm most looking forward to ‘right now.’ I am not trying to rush anything, and things are going well in the present. I am continuing to focus on self-improvement, hard work, and enjoying today for what it is.

Podcast, movie, TV show, or book? Why?

I’d say movie because there is so much you can do with the medium. Two to three hours is the perfect length for a story, and you can watch with friends. Books have always been good, but in my opinion, movies are better in the present day than they've ever been.


Allie McFadden

Communications Officer