The Future of Talent #2 – Mark Baaij

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The Future of Talent #2 – Mark Baaij

The Future of Talent series presents Mark Baaij, a Computer Engineering student with a love for combining software and hardware in order to achieve new outcomes and an eye for cutting-edge technology. One of our brilliant interns, Mark is developing a project with Augmented Reality within the 5G Hub. He talks about his first contact with hardware, his enthusiasm for carpentry, and his research with 5G technology.

 

Born and raised in Breda, where he has also started his studies, Mark says he comes from a relatively small family, comprising of his parents and a sister, with whom he shares the taste for computers: “My sister is also quite technical. She’s a game artist. Sometimes we help each other with some projects, so that’s very nice.”

Mark has several exciting hobbies. The first one revolves, of course, around computers, as he enjoys hardware and programming. He also plays the guitar, which leads to his other big interest: “I buy and restore guitars, and then I resell them.” Next to that, Mark has a good time painting and working with wood, as in model building: “Obviously, I like to play games, because that’s a requirement if you’re an IT guy. But I do try to get away from the monitor now and then because, at times, it can be very tiring, and then I just want to do something else.”

As an enthusiast of carpentry, Mark says that he likes to work with different materials, following and reproducing tutorials he finds online. “When I see an idea on YouTube, for example, I like to try to recreate it. I bought some fancy wood, and now I’m trying to make something nice with it. Just practicing woodworking. I would like to make a guitar from scratch when I get a little better at it.”

It all started in the living room 

Mark’s interest in computers evolved from watching television as a child. As he explains, “when I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV. That habit developed into sitting behind the computer and starting to play games. For that, though, you need a gaming PC. So, when I was around 10 or 11, I built my first gaming PC with my dad.” That episode was his introduction to hardware components.

At some point, he realized that a number of the games he played could profit from some improvement. It was the cue for Mark to start combining what he already enjoyed – hardware – with something new: software. His first step was to attend a game programming academy. However, that ended up not being an ideal scenario: “I was just beginning with programming, so I couldn’t really keep up,” he explains. It was when Mark decided to migrate to Computer Engineering, where he found the perfect merge between the two worlds: “The thing that I liked the most there was that it’s not only software and it’s not only hardware but the combination of the two. And that’s probably what interests me the most: how I can combine both software and hardware to make new things.” Mark studies at Avans University, and with only one more year ahead, his graduation is just around the corner.

Research at the 5G Hub

Mark started his internship at the 5G Hub in September 2020. He shares his assignment with his colleague Levi Vlasblom. The two collaborate on a project with Sentors, a company specializing in image recognition and ICT integration. As Mark explains, “the application receives a given image, runs some algorithms, and then we can get the necessary information out of that input image. With this technology, it is possible to scan the numbers on the sides of containers, easily accessing the content of that cargo.” The goal is to translate this technology into an Augmented Reality application. Mark and Levi’s research comprises of making it available on mobile phones and AR glasses: “This way, you can easily see the information about the container’s content on a display,” he says.

Mark (to the right) at the 5G Hub with his colleagues (in sequence) Srushti Bobade, Luuk De Waard, and Levi Vlasblom.

As Mark describes, with 5G, they hope to move a lot of the processing required for the application to operate to the computer, instead of running it on the device where the information is being displayed. He mentions that a small device does not have the calculating capacity of a large PC with heavier components. “Ideally, in the future, we will only need a very small computer that can just decode some video and display it; and then all the calculating and graphics will occur on a separate computer,” he predicts. For that to happen, high-speed communication between the two parts is crucial. This is the type of experimentation that they are working on at the moment. The demo is available at the 5G Hub, and it works with a webcam. Their project is to make the application run with AR glasses, displaying the information very quickly. 5G’s low latency is undoubtedly an essential component in that context.

Mark’s leading advisor for the project is Edwin Dijkstra, who guides the students with technical implements, and oversees most communication between the students and the company responsible for their internship – Ericsson. “Mark is very creative with finding solutions that do not exist as part of the new 5G ecosystem. By building new software modules and protocols from scratch, he secures that 5G edge can now interact with the world of Augmented Reality,” Edwin remarks. Mark is also assisted by Lennart Koorevaar, who plays the role of a secondary advisor. “Through hands-on work on innovative technologies like Augmented Reality and Machine Learning, Mark is directly involved in taking the 5G Hub capabilities to the next level,” Lennart observes.

A unique project among peers

Mark proudly states that his project stands out among his university colleagues. He explains that most of them are creating standard, not very complex applications. On the other hand, Mark has the privilege of working with cutting-edge technology, such as 5G and AR glasses. As he defines, “I really like to work with new technology and see what it’s capable of, and witness where we’re going as a society. Obviously, technology moves very fast. So, I like to work on new technology instead of remaining with things that are already out there and that other people have spent decades working on.”

The student mentions that his work at Ericsson is very network related, but he is also interested in cybersecurity, something he wants to explore in the future. For that, mobile communication is probably one of the most important assets he can acquire. “That’s also a thing that I’m interested in with 5G: learning how communications work,” he declares.

5G Hub experience and plans

Mark explains that he does not like to stay in confined spaces all day long, for example, in an office or at home. He values an environment where novelty and transformation are present. That is the setting he found at the 5G Hub and its open, interactive space. Mark highlights the number of people who visit the Hub (except for these Covid times) to work with and to discover the demos available. “That’s something that really speaks to me personally. It’s a very open space. I also see the value of the traditional office setting, but here it is much more stimulating,” he observes.

Joined by two other colleagues, Mark is working on setting up a small company. Nevertheless, working for a large corporation is also on his radar. The wish is to understand better how that kind of system functions. As he explains, “here at my internship at Ericsson, I already get to know a lot about what it means to work in a big company. But there’s a lot more to learn, for sure.”

For him, it is about consistency: “what I’ve noticed is that when you work for yourself, you’re very dependent on what other people need and when they need it. I think that in a big company, you have a more consistent workflow. You always have something to do because if you don’t have a task of your own, you can always help another person or another part of the company.” As such, Mark intends to combine both possibilities after graduating: starting his own business and having a job at a big corporation. “I would like to work for a big company, but also try to set something up for myself. And if that goes well, then invest more time. That’s the plan.”