John Konstantine Tsotsos received his Hons. BASc in Engineering Science, MSc in Computer Science and PhD in Computer Science all from the University of Toronto in 1974, 1976 and 1980 respectively. He then joined the University of Toronto on faculty in both Departments of Computer Science and of Medicine. He founded the internationally respected computer vision group at the University of Toronto in 1980. He moved to York University in 2000 where he is Distinguished Research Professor of Vision Science, while maintaining Adjunct Professorships at the University of Toronto in the Departments of Computer Science and in Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences. He directed York’s renowned Centre for Vision Research from 2000-2006 and is the founding Director of York’s Centre for Innovation in Computing at Lassonde.
Tsotsos’ research has always focused on how images are processed, understood and used. He recognized the importance of interdisciplinarity in computer science research early, well before it became widely appreciated. One major contribution addressed the understanding of the limits of visual information processing. He provided the first formal theorems regarding the computational complexity of human vision. Using these, he defined a neural architecture and theory of human visual attention termed Selective Tuning, including counterintuitive predictions for human vision. These predictions have been strongly supported experimentally, forming a new basis for vision science. For example, one of these predictions that went against current thinking, was that top-down attention suppresses local interfering context. This is now supported by dozens of experiments. His 2011 MIT Press monograph, A Computational Perspective on Visual Attention, details his theory. He and his lab have examined many aspects of attentional processing in machines and in humans and he is best known internationally for this body of work. His lab is also well-recognized as a pioneer in active object recognition and visual search. Both research threads led to embodiments on practical robots, notably an early children’s autonomous wheelchair project named PLAYBOT. Overall, his seminal contributions to computational vision span early and intermediate visual representations, computational complexity of perception, visual attention, robotic active perception, and medical image analysis, particularly in cardiology.
Tsotsos trained the future of Canadian computer vision and robotics researchers. His trainees have gone on to strong research careers of their own or founded successful startups, with many in advanced leadership positions in academia and industry, nationally and internationally.
An interest in applied computing pervades his career. He is a co-inventor on 4 patents, was co-recipient of the 1997 CITO Innovation Award for Leadership in Product Development, and has co-founded 5 companies. He was an IBM Center for Advanced Studies Visiting Scientist for several years.
He has served on the editorial boards of several top journals of various mandates, spanning AI, computer vision, human vision, cognition, and applications in medicine. He has been on the organizing committees of over 100 workshops and conferences, including General Chair of computer vision’s most prestigious conference, the International Conference on Computer Vision, in 1999.
Additional honours include: Canadian Heart Foundation Scholar 1981-1984; Fellow, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research 1985-1995; Tier I Canada Research Chair of Computational Vision 2003-2024; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, 2010; Fellow IEEE, 2018; Canadian Image Processing and Pattern Recognition Society Award for Research Excellence and Service, 2006; 1st President’s Research Excellence Award from York University, 2009; Geoffrey J. Burton Memorial Lectureship in 2011 from the United Kingdom’s Applied Vision Association for significant contribution to vision science; the Royal Society of Canada’s 2015 Sir John William Dawson Medal for sustained excellence in multidisciplinary research, the first computer scientist so honored; and 10 conference paper recognitions.
Tsotsos’ trainees celebrated his 65th birthday with a Verbal Festschrift and Banquet in May 2018 with over 100 attendees and a day’s worth of excellent presentations (http://jtl.lassonde.yorku.ca/2018/08/jkt65-celebration/).