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Venture Capitalists Like the Sound of Cell Phone Technologies Invented at the University of Maryland

Venture Capitalists Like the Sound of Cell Phone Technologies Invented at the University of Maryland

A new technology that measures the radiation absorbed into the human body from cell phones faster and for far less money than current methods was awarded first prize at the University of Maryland Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Review Day Faculty Venture Fair, held Oct. 9.

Christopher Davis, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, pitched the technology he developed to a judging panel comprised of venture capitalists and leaders in the region's entrepreneurial community. He was selected among six faculty members and graduate students who also presented their inventions.

"I was very surprised and delighted to win, because our technology is a little different, it is nearer to the ground than the other inventions presented," said Davis. "Cell phone certification is vital to the manufacturers of wireless devices. Improved testing equipment is needed that is accurate and fast. Current testing capabilities are expensive and slow and potentially subject to error."

Davis's invention uses 12 laser beams to measure the full specific absorption rate (also known as SAR, a measurement used by the cell phone industry) of a cell phone's radiation into a model of the human body in less than a minute. His system could cost significantly less than current measuring equipment.

Professor Carol Espy-Wilson's invention, called TidyTalk, took second place, with just one less vote than Davis's. TidyTalk filters noise out of a sound sample to make any speaker's speech sound clear. TidyTalk can even pull out the speech of secondary speakers, or those that are not as loud as the primary speaker.

Espy-Wilson's technology could filter out sounds such as wind or truck noise when talking on a cell phone.

Other faculty members and graduate students presenting at the fair, all from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, include:

  • Professor John Baras: Authentication of Mobile Wireless Devices--New Physical and Structured Randomness Techniques
  • Graduate student Mahesh Ramachandran, whose advisor is Professor Rama Chellappa: Augmented Reality and Navigation for Blind People
  • Professor Mario Dagenais: High Conversion Efficiency InGaN/GaN Solar Cells
  • Prof. Ramani Duraiswami and graduate student Adam O'Donovan: Audio Camera for Efficient Sound Localization

"We are delighted by the enthusiasm with which ECE faculty have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit," said Patrick O'Shea, Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Our Venture Fair is an important step in taking our ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace."

Sponsors of the Faculty Venture Fair included the university's Office of Technology Commercialization, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, or Mtech. Presenters were judged based upon clarity of pitch, commercial viability, and licensing potential.

Judges for the venture fair included: Henry Ahn, program manager, technology funding programs, Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO); Frank Dickson, principal, Maryland Venture Fund; Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship; and Kiran Hebbar, partner, Valhalla Partners.

The Research Review Day is a special showcase event highlighting the latest electrical and computer engineering technology innovations developed by faculty and students at the University of Maryland.

"Many venture capital firms have traditionally found it difficult to mine the labyrinth of research at universities and emerge with a major market winner," says Dean Chang, director of Mtech's venture and education programs. "With over $500 million in sponsored research at the University of Maryland, these Faculty Venture Fairs are an ideal forum for bringing together our most innovative academic researchers, venture capital firms, and university technology commercialization and entrepreneurship organizations to ensure that the best inventions on campus will have a good chance of finding their way out of laboratories and eventually into society."

This was the fourth Faculty Venture Fair held at the university. Two have been held through the College of Chemical and Life Sciences and one through the Institute for Systems Research. All three past winners have gone on to start companies to commercialize their award-winning inventions.

October 15, 2009


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