Zaher, Software Engineer

Zaher Joukhadar is Research Fellow at Microsoft Research Center for Social Natural User Interfaces (Social NUI). Zaher has a master’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Melbourne (2013), and a bachelor’s degree in Informatics Engineering (Artificial Intelligence and Natural Languages Processing) from the University of Aleppo (2010).

At Microsoft Social NUI, Zaher is busy inventing new technologies that facilitate human communication, collaboration, social interaction, and animal welfare; yes, animal welfare, Zaher created an innovative technology to enable Orangutans at Melbourne Zoo to play video games and interact with visitors, he later became a friend with Malu the smartest orangutan in Melbourne. He also led a team of three interns who created a technology to track people movements in bird’s-eye view using Microsoft Kinect. The technology was shown off within a digital art installation in several Melbourne festivals such as SummerSalt and White Night. Zaher leads the technical work at Microsoft Social NUI.

Zaher also works occasionally at Melbourne Networked Society Institute (MNSI), the University of Melbourne where he created an assessment toolbox that uses Microsoft Kinect to automatically observe and analyze interactions between a mother and child who has autism spectrum disorder.

Prior to his current position at Microsoft Social NUI, Zaher worked as a Team Leader at IDScan Biometrics LTD for four years, where he led a team of brilliant engineers who created first world artificial intelligence document recognition system. The system automatically recognizes, reads and authenticates every official identification card and passport in the world.

Zaher was ranked first among his fellow graduates from the University of Aleppo in 2010, and because he exceled in academia he was directly appointed as teaching assistant at the faculty of informatics engineering, the University of Aleppo where he taught some of his beloved subjects: data mining, machine learning, expert system and computer vision.

Midway through his undergraduate degree, Zaher scored a scholarship to travel and study as exchange student for one year at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, where he learned so much about engineering an artificial intelligent system. Later -just days- after he got his bachelor degree in 2010, Zaher scored another scholarship to study for one year at Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

For his master degree, Zaher wanted it to be at one of the best universities in the world, so he applied for many universities and get five offers from leading universities around the world such as the University of Bristol, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Melbourne. He decided to go with the offer from the best university among the five. He picked the University of Melbourne and then applied for a scholarship. That scholarship was offered by the AlThuraya Foundation.

Zaher is a machine learning guru, his research interests include data mining, image processing, deep learning, and computer vision. It all started when his father bought him a PC in 1997. He was amazed by what that “inanimate” box can do, since then he asked himself: “can we – human – make that box intelligent or a live?” That question was the base of his dreams to pursue his studies in the field of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Outside digital world, Zaher enjoys spending quality time with friends and family. He likes to watch science fiction movies as he believes that science fiction plays large role in forming real future technologies, his favorite movie is Interstellar. He enjoys moments of laugher so he loves comedy movies and TV shows such as Big Bang Theory. He also keeps his body fit so he runs, swims, and works out regularly.

Zaher can be contacted at zjoukhadar@unimelb.edu.au and at his new personal website www.joukhadar.me