CMU highlights faculty start-up ideas - CTTEC - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CMU highlights faculty start-up ideas

A mix of academics, investors, economic development and emerging technology fans got a glimpse Tuesday night of some of the work going on outside the classroom by the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University during the latest installment of the Project Olympus Show & Tell.

Project Olympus, a three-year-old initiative aimed at bridging the gap between university research and commercialization, helps students and faculty explore the commercial viability of their research.

The project is housed in the School of Computer Science but works with students and faculty from across campus, Director Lenore Blum told the crowd of more than 250 people gathered at the Hillman Center.

When it first began, there were four or five faculty projects in the portfolio, said Katharine Needham, executive in residence for Project Olympus. This year, the group was approached by a dozen faculty interested in looking at start-up potential.

Three faculty ideas were presented and all explored the idea of harnessing the power and popularity of social networks:

  • Duolingo is the latest project by computer science professor Luis von Ahn, whose previous Project Olympus endeavour, reCAPTCHA, was acquired by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) in 2009. Like reCAPTCHA, which uses everyday Internet activity of typing in a CAPTCHA to help digitize books — on word at a time — Duolingo aims to use the time and energy people spend learning a language to translate the web. Through the Duolingo model, von Ahn said he sees a way to help people learn a language for free while translating the web in a more cost-effective manner.
  • GGIdeaLab, presented by Seth Goldstein and Carlos Guestrin, professors in the School of Computer Science, are looking at how to tame information overload while at the same time monetizing social networks. Their research suggests bringing intention to the space of social networking in order to make money off of the information those networks gather. The idea being, when someone searches for a Nikon on the Internet, they have the Internet to buy a camera so it's easier to make money off of that person’s activity, whereas when someone logs into a social network, there is no clear intent. The company is working on creating an incentive and a new interface to “connect people around products and services they want when they want them.” They expect to go after funding early next year.
  • Salon, a project by David Kaufer, a professor in the English department, and Ananda Gunawardena, a professor in the computer science department, is creating a meeting place that allows users to annotate and discuss texts. The project allows a teacher or discussion leader to see what areas of the text are getting the most focus from readers, which can help with class preparation. Users can also see what areas of text others are interested in. Everyone can ask questions and comment, and the discussion can begin before class. The program can also filter users by demographic information, so users can see annotations depending on perspective.

A fourth presentation was a follow-up on a student-led company, CareerImp, that moved from Project Olympus into the Innovation Works incubator AlphaLab.

CareerImp, which stands for career improvement, is aimed at matching job seekers to a compatible job opening. The company launched its first product, Résunate, earlier this summer, and it will create a résume from scratch or by importing information from LinkedIn. Once a resume is in the system, a job seeker can enter a job description into the service and the product, using a semantic algorithm, will automatically generate a résume with the formatting and relevant information for that specific job. Company CEO Ayan Kishore said the idea was to help job seekers, who may be sending hundreds of applications, save time while also customizing a résume.

Article Courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times