Dr. Xiaoran "Van" Fan

Senior Research Scientist

Samsung Artificial Intelligence Center - New York

SAIC-NY

Samsung 837

837 Washington Street, New York NY 10014

 

Email: van.fan AT samsung DOT com

 

Welcome to my old school early 90s style website! I am currently a senior research scientist working on wireless perception in robotics at Samsung Artificial Intelligence Center in New York (SAIC-NY), lead by prfessor Volkan Isler, professor Daniel Lee, and professor Sebastian Seung. Before that, I worked on time synchronizations for CoMP systems in Dr. Victor Bahl's group at Microsoft Research (MSR) Redmond. I received my PhD from Wireless Information Network Lab (WINLAB), Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University (September 2015 - March 2020), under professor Yanyong Zhang, and Dr. Rich Howard, where I was working on distributed beamforming systems for secret communication and wireless power transferring. I have also been working closely with Dr. Longfei Shangguan since he was a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University

 

PROJECTS

 
AuraSense: Perceiving obstacles and avoiding collisions is fundamental to the safe operation of a robot system, particularly when the robot must operate in highly dynamic human environments. Proximity detection using on-robot sensors can be used to avoid or mitigate impending collisions. However, existing proximity sensing methods are orientation and placement dependent, resulting in blind spots even with large numbers of sensors. In this work, we introduce the phenomenon of the Leaky Surface Wave (LSW), a novel sensing modality, and present AuraSense, a proximity detection system using the LSW. AuraSense is the first system to realize no-dead-spot proximity sensing for robot arms. It requires only a single pair of piezoelectric transducers, and can easily be applied to off-the-shelf robots with minimal modifications. We further introduce a set of signal processing techniques and a lightweight neural network to address the unique challenges in using the LSW for proximity sensing. Finally, we demonstrate a prototype system consisting of a single piezoelectric element pair on a robot manipulator, which validates our design. We conducted several micro benchmark experiments and performed more than 2000 on-robot proximity detection trials with various potential robot arm materials, colliding objects, approach patterns, and robot movement patterns. AuraSense achieves 100% and 95.3% true positive proximity detection rates when the arm approaches static and mobile obstacles respectively, with a true negative rate over 99%, showing the real-world viability of this system.
IROS 2021 paper, Demo video, SRA power plant 2021 live demo video
 
HeadFi: Headphones continue to grow more intelligent as new functions (e.g., touch-based gesture control) appear. Such functions usually rely on auxiliary sensors ({e.g., accelerometer, gyroscope) that are available on many smart headphones. However, for those headphones that do not have such sensors, supporting these functions becomes a daunting task. This work presents HeadFi, a design for bringing "smartness" to headphones. Instead of adding auxiliary sensors into headphones, HeadFi turns the pair of drivers that are readily available on all headphones into a versatile sensor to enable new applications spanning across mobile health, user-interfaces, and context-awareness. HeadFi works as a plug-in peripheral connecting the headphones and pairing device (e.g., smartphone). The simplicity (can be as simple as only two resistors) and small form factor of this design lend itself to be embedded into the pairing device as an integrated circuit. As a result, we envision HeadFi can serve as an important supplementary solution to existing smart headphones design by directly transforming the large amount of "dumb" headphones into intelligent ones, paving the way for realizing earable intelligence at an unprecedented scale.
--This is my favorite work during my PhD, as one reason is me being an audiophile in the HeadFi community for years (the name 'HeadFi' comes from the world largest headphone audiophile website HeadFi), another reason is this technology can enable a ubiquitous human to headphones interface because so many existing "dumb" headphones out there can enjoy the benefits from HeadFi. Note some extensions of this work such how the HeadFi supports stereo mode are also included in the patent provision. Please contact me if you are interested in these technical detils beyond the MobiCom 21' paper.
MobiCom 2021 paper, Demo video, Research commercialization
 
Panotti: Collision detection is critical for safe robot operation in the presence of humans. Acoustic information originating from collisions between robots and objects provides opportunities for fast collision detection and localization; however, audio information from microphones on robot manipulators needs to be robustly differentiated from motors and external noise sources. In this work, we present Panotti, the first system to efficiently detect and localize on-robot collisions using low-cost microphones. We present a novel algorithm that can localize the source of a collision with centimeter level accuracy and is also able to reject false detections using a robust spectral filtering scheme. Our method is scalable, easy to deploy, and enables safe and efficient control for robot manipulator applications. We implement and demonstrate a prototype that consists of 8 miniature microphones on a 7 degree of freedom (DOF) manipulator to validate our design. Extensive experiments show that Panotti realizes near perfect on-robot true positive collision detection rate with almost zero false detections even in high noise environments. In terms of accuracy, it achieves an average localization error of less than 3.8 cm under various experimental settings.
IROS 2020 paper, 1 min demo video, Full presentation video, Slides
 
In-N-Out: This work presents the design, implementation and evaluation of In-N-Out, a software-hardware solution for far-field wireless power transfer. In-N-Out can continuously charge a medical implant residing in deep tissues at near-optimal beamforming power, even when the implant moves around inside the human body. To accomplish this, we exploit the unique energy ball pattern of distributed antenna array and devise a backscatter-assisted beamforming algorithm that can concentrate RF energy on a tiny spot surrounding the medical implant. Meanwhile, the power levels on other body parts stay in low level, reducing the risk of overheating.
--In this work, the key idea is to offload the computation that realizing distributed beamforming to an out-of-body node using backscatter. This is particularly useful since the energy for such IoTs placed in extreme locations (for example, placed inbody) is so scarce. Beyond charging implants, In-N-Out system essentially tries to solve a problem - how to realize distributed beamforming when the beamforming target is placed in extreme locations.
MobiCom 2020 paper, 5 min elevetor pitch video, Full presentation video, Slides
 
Secret-Focus: This work presents a secret commuication system by using the energy focusing effect of the energy ball. Also, by applying distributed phase alignment among distributed transmitters, we show that a new approach for assuring physical layer secrecy, without requiring any knowledge about the eavesdropper or injecting any additional cover noise, is possible if the transmitters frequently perturb their phases around the proper alignment phase while transmitting messages. This approach is readily applied to amplitude-based modulation schemes, such as PAM or QAM. We present our secrecy mechanisms, prove several important secrecy properties, and develop a real world practical secret communication system.
--Improving communication security is a direct application from the energy pattern of distributed beamforming. On top of the energy pattern of distributed beamforming, the phase dithering trick lies at a quite special sweetspot in my mind. It was accidentally discovered during me playing our distributed beamforming algorithm across multiple receivers. That Eureka moment never fade.
INFOCOM 2018 paper, Slides, Demo video, Research commercialization
 
Energy-Ball: This work presents a new wireless power transfer approach by aligning the phases of a collection of distributed radio frequency (RF) chargers at the target receiver device. Our approach can ship energy over tens of meters, to mobile targets, and even to targets blocked by obstacles. More importantly, our approach is much safer than traditional beamforming based WPT systems by largely avoiding overheating other areas. Thanks to its advantage on safety, under the same FCC limit, our approach can be scaled up to ship higher level of energy over longer distance than using traditional beamforming approach. Such a technology can enable a large array of Internet of Things (IoT) applications and render them much more robust and long-running.
--This work is the world first real world distributed beamforming system that showcases the safety merit for wireless power transfer. The idea stems from mimicking how Fresnel Zone plates focus the light at the focal point. This idea came from a discussion with my advisor Dr. Rich Howard, who was the VP of wireless research at Bell Labs. This work initiated the fundamental of my PhD research.
MobiSys 2019 forum paper, UbiComp 2018 paper, Slides

The best works are yet to come, stay tuned!

 

MAIN PUBLICATIONS

AuraSense: Robot Collision Avoidance by Full Surface Proximity Detection
Xiaoran Fan, Riley Simmons-Edler, Daewon Lee, Larry Jackel, Richard Howard, Daniel Lee.
IEEE IROS 2021 - International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
Bronze Medal of Samsung Best Paper Award
Finalist of Samsung Best Paper Award (11 out of 1000+ submissions)
 
HeadFi: Bringing Intelligence to All Headphones
Xiaoran Fan, Longfei Shangguan, Siddharth Rupavatharam, Yanyong Zhang, Jie Xiong, Yunfei Ma, Richard Howard.
ACM MobiCom 2021 - The 27th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.
(Acceptance rate: 16.8%)
 
Acoustic Collision Detection and Localization for Robot Manipulators
Xiaoran Fan, Daewon Lee, Yuan Chen, Colin Prepscius, Volkan Isler, Larry Jackel, Sebastian Seung, Daniel Lee.
IEEE IROS 2020 - International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
Best Research Paper by Kinova Research
 
Distributed Beamforming Based Wireless Power Transfer: Analysis and Realization
Xiaoran Fan, Han Ding, Yanyong Zhang, Wade Trappe, Zhu Han, Rich Howard.
IEEE TST 2020 - Tsinghua Science and Technology.
Invited Paper
 
Towards Flexible Wireless Charging for Medical Implants Using Distributed Antenna System
Xiaoran Fan, Longfei Shangguan, Richard Howard, Yanyong Zhang, Yao Peng, Jie Xiong, Yunfei Ma, Xiang-Yang Li.
ACM MobiCom 2020 - The 26th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.
(Acceptance rate: 16%)
 
Energy-Ball: Wireless Power Transfer for Batteryless Internet of Things through Distributed Beamforming
Xiaoran Fan, Han Ding, Sugang Li, Michael Sanzari, Yanyong Zhang, Wade Trappe, Zhu Han and Richard Howard.
ACM UbiComp 2018 - ACM International joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing.
(Acceptance rate: 21%)
 
Secret-Focus: A Practical Physical Layer Secret Communication System by Perturbing Focused Phases in Distributed Beamforming
Xiaoran Fan, Zhijie Zhang, Wade Trappe, Yanyong Zhang, Richard Howard and Zhu Han.
IEEE INFOCOM 2018 - The 37th Annual IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications.
(Acceptance rate: 19%)
Best-in-session Presentation Award
 
Auto++: Detecting Cars Using Embedded Microphones in Real-Time
Sugang Li, Xiaoran Fan, Yanyong Zhang, Wade Trappe, Janne Lindqvist and Richard Howard.
ACM UbiComp 2017 - ACM International joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing.
(Acceptance rate: 23%)
 

 

THESIS, SHORT PAPERS, DEMOS, AND POSTERS

Energy Focusing through Distributed Beamforming in Internet of Things : Mechanisms and Applications
Xiaoran Fan.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 2020 - PhD Thesis.
 
Multi-modal Dataset for Human Grasping
Alexis Burns, Xiaoran Fan, Jade Pinkenburg, Daewon Lee, Volkan Isler, Daniel Lee.
IEEE RO - MAN 2020 - The 29th International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication Workshop
 
New Methods for Non-Destructive Underground Fiber Localization using Distributed Fiber Optic Sensing Technology
Hansi Liu, Ming-Fang Huang, Yuheng Chen, Xiaoran Fan, Ting Wang, Marco Gruteser.
OECC 2020 - The 25th OptoElectronics and Communications Conference .
 
Facilitating the Deployment of Next Billion IoT Devices with Distributed Antenna Systems
Xiaoran Fan.
ACM MobiSyis 2019 - RisingStars Forum - The 17th ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services.
Best Presentation Award
 
Enabling Concurrent IoT Transmissions in Distributed C-RAN
Xiaoran Fan, Zhenzhou Qi, Zhenhua Jia and Yanyong Zhang.
ACM SenSys 2018 - The 16th ACM Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems.
 
A Practical Secret Communication System by Perturbing Focused Phases Among Distributed Transmitters
Xiaoran Fan, Zhijie Zhang, Wade Trappe, Yanyong Zhang, Richard Howard and Zhu Han.
IEEE INFOCOM 2018 - The 37th Annual IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications.
 
Demo: A Practical Secret Communication System by Perturbing Focused Phases Among Distributed Transmitters
Xiaoran Fan, Zhijie Zhang, Wade Trappe, Yanyong Zhang, Richard Howard and Zhu Han.
IEEE INFOCOM 2018 - The 37th Annual IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications.
 
Bo-ear: unsupervised car sound sensing and tracking using microphones on smartphones
Sugang Li, Xiaoran Fan, Yanyong Zhang, Wade Trappe, Janne Lindqvist and Richard Howard.
S3@MobiCom 2016: S3 Proceedings of the Eighth Wireless of the Students, by the Students, and for the Students Workshop.
 
Note: This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.
 

 

PATENTS

Enabling Low Cost Full Surface Tactile Skin for Human Robot Interaction
Xiaoran Fan, Daewon Lee, Lawrence Jackel, Richard Howard, Daniel Lee and Volkan Isler
Oct 2021. WA-202109-006-1.
Samsung A1 Grade Patent
Samsung Special Project Category: Strategically Important Areas for Patenting (길목 특허)
 
Method and Apparatus for Robot Collision Avoidance by Full Surface Proximity Detection
Xiaoran Fan, Riley Simmons-Edler, Daewon Lee, Lawrence Jackel, Richard Howard and Daniel Lee
Apr 2021. 63/155,126.
Samsung A1 Grade Patent
Samsung Special Project Category: Strategically Important Areas for Patenting (길목 특허)
 
Smart Headphone System and Method
Xiaoran Fan, Rich Howard
May 2020. 63/029,016.
 
System and Method for Acoustic Collision Detection and Localization for Robot Manipulators
Xiaoran Fan, Dae Won Lee, Ibrahim Volkan Isler, Yuan Chen, Colin Prepscius, Lawrence Jackel, Sebastian Seung, Daniel Lee
Apr 2020. WA-202007-007-1-US0.
 
In-body Wireless Charging System
Xiaoran Fan, Rich Howard, Longfei Shangguan, Jie Xiong
Nov 2019. 62/938,051.
 
Safe Wireless Power Transfer and Secure Communication Through Distributed Phase Alignment
Xiaoran Fan, Rich Howard, Wade Trappe, Yanyong Zhang
Apr 2018. 17/045,368.
 

TEACHING

ECE 233 - Digital Logic Design Lab TA - Fall 2016
ECE 233 - Digital Logic Design Recitation TA - Fall 2017
Recipient of the TA of the Year Award - Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University, 2018
I enjoy teaching students, you can find feedbacks for my teaching from my students here.

Paper Reviewer

ACM Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom, TPC 2022)
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)
IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS)
IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing (TMC)
IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques (TMTT)
IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC)
IEEE Transactions on Networking (ToN)
ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks (ToSN)
The Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT/UbiComp)
IEEE/ACM Conference on Connected Health:Applications, Systems and Engineering Technologies (CHASE)
ACM International Conference on Systems for Built Environments (BuildSys)
IEEE 5G World Forum (WF-5G)
IEEE International Conference on Sensing, Communication and Networking (SECON)
ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (ACM/IEEE IPSN)
(External) ACM Conference on Embedded Network Sensor Systems (SenSys)
(External) USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI)
(External) ACM International Conference on Emerging Networking Experiments and Technologies (CoNEXT)
ACM International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks (EWSN)
IEEE International Conference on Internet-of-Things Design and Implementation (IoTDI)
IEEE Signal Processing Magazine
Elsevier Smart Health

Others

I love classical music, listening as well as performing on the piano. I like Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Besides collecting great recordings in history, I also enjoy live classical music concerts at NJSO and NYPhil. As an engineer, I am interested in understanding and building the systems for reproducing music--e.g. speakers, amplifiers, turntables. It is this interest that led me to research in signal processing. Of particular interest is the exploration of older technologies, such as vacuum tube amplifiers or vinyl records, to better understand the appeal they have for some enthusiasts.

News!

Oct 2021

AuraSense got the Bronze Medal of Samsung Best Paper Award. I am humbled to receive the great recognition from Samsung.

Oct 2021

Our work 'SonicSkin: Enabling Low Cost Full Surface Tactile Skin for Human Robot Interaction' got Samsung A1 grade patent.

Sep 2021

AuraSense is selected into the special category of Samsung's internal projects: Strategically Important Areas for Patenting (길목 특허)

Aug 2021

AuraSense is selected into the finalist of Samsung Best Paper Award. I will deliver the final presentation for SBPA competition on 14th, September.

July 2021

Check our new demo videos for HeadFi!

June 2021

Our paper "AuraSense: Robot Collision Avoidance by Full Surface Proximity Detection" is accepted by IROS 2021.

June 2021

I am invited to serve as TPC for MobiCom 2022. Please consider submitting.

June 2021

I delivered a live demo on the acoustic surface wave (ASW) technology at Samsung Research America Power Plant 2021.

April 2021

Our work "Full Surface Proximity Detection for Robot Collision Avoidance" got Samsung A1 grade patent.

Jan 2021

Our paper "HeadFi: Bringing Intelligence to All Headphones" is accepted by MobiCom 2021.

Nov 2020

Our paper "Acoustic Collision Detection and Localization for Robot Manipulators" is awarded as Best Research Paper by Kinova Research.

July 2020

Our paper "New Methods for Non-Destructive Underground Fiber Localization using Distributed Fiber Optic Sensing Technology" is accepted for publication at OECC 2020.

June 2020

Our paper "Acoustic Collision Detection and Localization for Robot Manipulators" is accepted by IROS 2020.

Mar 2020

I defended my PhD today. Now I am officially Dr. Van. Thanks to the committee members - Prof. Wade Trappe, Prof. Dipankar Raychaudhuri, Prof. Yanyong Zhang, Dr. Longfei Shangguan and Dr. Richard E. Howard.

Oct 2019

Our paper "Towards Flexible Wireless Charging for Medical Implants Using Distributed Antenna System" is accepted by MobiCom 2020. See you guys in London.

Jul 2019

I passed the Ph.D dissertation proposal, committee members are Prof. Wade Trappe, Prof. Dipankar Raychaudhuri, Prof. Yanyong Zhang and Dr. Richard E. Howard. Thanks for their invaluable comments, all of which will help me greatly improve my thesis.

Jun 2019

I presented my paper at Mobisys 2019 - RisingStars forum and received the Best Presentation Award!

May 2019

I have been selected to receive the MobiSys 2019 travel grant.

Apr 2019

My paper "Facilitating the Deployment of Next Billion IoT Devices with Distributed Antenna Systems" has been accepted by ACM MobiSys 2019 PhD forum! See you guys in Seoul.

Oct 2018

I presented our work on Energy-ball at UbiComp 2018, Singapore. Hope see you guys next year Ubicomp 2019 at London!

Sep 2018

I have been selected to receive the UbiComp/ISWC 2018 travel grant. I am also going to join the student volunteer team to help run UbiComp/ISWC 2018.

Aug 2018

Our early work on supporting cuncurrent IoT transmissions using distributed CRAN is accepted by ACM SenSys (2018) demo and poster session.

Jul 2018

I received ECE Research Excellence Award from Rutgers University.

Jun 2018

I received TA/GA research professional development fund from Rutgers University

May 2018

I presented our work on Secret-Focus at INFOCOM 2018, Honolulu, Hawaii and received the Best-in-session Presentation Award!

Apr 2018

I passed Ph.D. qualifying exam. Now I am a post-qualify Ph.D. candidate.

Apr 2018

Our paper "Energy-Ball: Wireless Power Transfer for Batteryless Internet of Things through Distributed Beamforming" has been accepted by ACM Ubicomp 2018! See you guys in Singapore.

Feb 2018

I am arwarded as the TA of the Year Award for Fall 2017 Cycle!

Feb 2018

Our poster for Secret-Focus has been accepted by INFOCOM2018.

Feb 2018

Our video demo for Secret-Focus has been accepted by INFOCOM2018.

Jan 2018

I received my students' feedback for my teaching in last semester (DLD, fall 2017).

Dec 2017

I am recruiting motivated students (Master or Undergraduate). Feel free to send me your resume.

Nov 2017

Our paper "Secret-Focus: A Practical Physical Layer Secret Communication System by Perturbing Focused Phases in Distributed Beamforming" has been accepted by IEEE INFOCOM 2018! I will present our Secret-Focus work at IEEE INFOCOM 2018, see you guys in Hawaii!

March 2017

Our paper "Auto++:Detecting Cars Using Embedded Microphones in Real-Time" has been accepted by ACM Ubicomp 2017! Paper Slides.