Niall L. Williams

I am a PhD student in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am working in the GAMMA lab under the supervision of Dr. Dinesh Manocha and Dr. Aniket Bera. My research interests involve virtual/augmented reality, computer graphics, human perception, and robotics.

I graduated with a B.S. with High Honors in Computer Science from Davidson College. During my time at Davidson, I was a member of the DRIVE lab, where I was advised by Dr. Tabitha Peck. My undergraduate thesis studied redirected walking thresholds under different conditions and how we can efficiently estimate them.

My name is pronounced in the same way that you pronounce "Nile."
In my free time, I mostly enjoy drawing and competitive video games (DotA 2 and Tetris).

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profile photo
News
Journal and Conference Publications

A full list of my publications can also be found on my Google Scholar profile. Representative papers are highlighted.

clean-usnob Redirected Walking in Static and Dynamic Scenes Using Visibility Polygons
Niall L. Williams, Aniket Bera, Dinesh Manocha
Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2021
Proc. ISMAR 2021
Paper | arXiv | Project Page | Video coming soon | Code coming soon | Bibtex

We formalize the redirection problem using motion planning and use this formalization to develop an improved steering algorithm based on the similarity of physical and virtual free spaces.

clean-usnob ARC: Alignment-based Redirection Controller for Redirected Walking in Complex Environments
Niall L. Williams, Aniket Bera, Dinesh Manocha
Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2021
Proc. IEEE VR 2021   (Best Paper Honorable Mention)
Paper | arXiv | Project Page | Video | Code | Bibtex

We achieve improved steering results with redirected walking by steering the user towards positions in the physical world that more closely match their position in the virtual world.

clean-usnob PettingZoo: Gym for Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning
Justin K. Terry, Benjamin Black, Mario Jayakumar, Ananth Hari, Ryan Sullivan, Luis Santos, Clemens Dieffendahl, Niall L. Williams, Yashas Lokesh, Caroline Horsch, Praveen Ravi
arXiv, 2020
Paper | arXiv | Code | Bibtex

One of the most popular libraries for multi-agent reinforcement learning.

clean-usnob Generating Emotive Gaits for Virtual Agents Using Affect-Based Autoregression
Uttaran Bhattacharya, Nicholas Rewkowski, Pooja Guha, Niall L. Williams, Trisha Mittal, Aniket Bera, Dinesh Manocha
International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), 2020
Paper | arXiv | Project Page | Video | Code | Bibtex

We automatically synthesize emotionally expressive gaits for virtual avatars using an autoregression network.

clean-usnob Estimation of Rotation Gain Thresholds Considering FOV, Gender, and Distractors
Niall L. Williams, Tabitha C. Peck
Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2019
Proc. ISMAR 2019
Paper | Code | Bibtex

We measured perceptual thresholds for redirected walking and found that the user's tolerance for redirection depends on the field of view, the presence of distractors, and their gender.

Workshop Papers and Posters
clean-usnob Redirection Using Alignment
Niall L. Williams, Aniket Bera, Dinesh Manocha
IEEE VR Locomotion Workshop, 2021
2-page Abstract | Bibtex

We provide a general framework for how alignment can be used in redirected walking to steer the user towards similar physical and virtual positions.

clean-usnob Augmenting Physics Education with Haptic and Visual Feedback
Kern Qi, David Borland, Emily Jackson, Niall L. Williams, James Minogue, and Tabitha C. Peck
IEEE VR 5th Workshop on K-12+ Embodied Learning through Virtual & Augmented Reality (KELVAR), 2020
Paper | Bibtex

Using haptic force feedback to help teachers better understand physics concepts.

clean-usnob The Impact of Haptic and Visual Feedback on Teaching
Kern Qi, David Borland, Emily Jackson, Niall L. Williams, James Minogue, and Tabitha C. Peck
IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, 2020
2-page Abstract | Bibtex
Tracing the Development of a Haptically-Enabled Science Simulation (HESS) For Buoyancy
J Minogue, D Borland, T Peck, E Jackson, K Qi, and NL Williams
NARST Annual International Conference, 2020
clean-usnob Estimation of Rotation Gain Thresholds for Redirected Walking Considering FOV and Gender
Niall L. Williams, Tabitha C. Peck
IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, 2019
2-page Abstract | Bibtex

Service
SIGGRAPH Research Career Development Committee, 2021 - Now
Graduate school application mentor, 2020

Graduate admissions application reviewer, 2019 - Now

Math & CS department student representative, 2018 - 2019

Davidson College ACM chapter co-founder, 2018 - 2019

Teaching

I greatly enjoy teaching since it’s a combination of some of my favorite things: talking about computer science, introducing people computer science, and learning. I would like to see more diverse groups of people become active in the computer science community, and I think teaching is an important step towards that. It’s important to me that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn, so I try my best to be welcoming and unassuming about people’s prior knowledge. I learned a lot about teaching from my time as an undergrad at Davidson, and I deeply agree with their approach to teaching.

CMSC420 TA (Advanced Data Structures), Fall 2019

CMSC425 TA (Game Programming), Spring 2020

CMSC420 TA (Advanced Data Structures), Fall 2020

CMSC423 TA (Bioinformatic Algorithms, Databases, and Tools), Spring 2021
Computer Science Tutor, 2018 - 2019

Computer Science Head TA, Spring 2019

Computer Science Grader, 2017 - 2018
Fun Stuff

A collection of random bits of info about me or things I find interesting.


  • While it's true that I'm a published author, I do not write novels.
  • My typing speed is about 92 WPM.
  • I walked my dog during a hurricane once (nature calls!).
  • I have gone scuba diving with sharks in open water (no cage!).
  • I had a cast on my left arm and right leg at the same time for 6 weeks.
  • I won the only poker game I ever played. I no longer remember how to play poker.
  • Some of my favorite pictures of my cat: Img 1 Img 2 Img 3 Img 4 Img 5 Img 6 Img 7 Img 8.
  • My undergrad thesis advisor and second reader made watching all episodes of Seinfeld a requirement to qualify for honors.
  • I once spent a summer helping newly-hatched sea turtles safely reach the ocean.

Useful resources:

Fun reads:


Website format copied from Jon Barron.