Discovery -Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University


2009 Highlights

Internship Program Stages Third QoLT Foundry Opportunity Meeting

foundry interns photoOn July 2, 2009 the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center’s Foundry staged its third opportunity meeting in which interns presented business models resulting from the Foundry Process.  The QoLT Foundry was established to accelerate the commercialization of research from the QoLT ERC. After nearly eight weeks of research, validation and preparation, technology opportunities were presented by the Foundry’s 2009 Summer interns.  The Foundry’s internship program, in its second year, has grown from four students to eight.  This year’s team  drew from business, law and engineering and included four University of Pittsburgh masters students, three Carnegie Mellon University masters students, and an undergraduate from Georgia Tech.  Through this unique opportunity, the team presented to an audience of local technology based economic development  partners, investors, entrepreneurs and QoLT industry partners. This effort has already led to several individual follow-on meetings.  Opportunities presented included VibeAttire, Lean& Zoom, Inhabited Web, Scratch Input, Whosat? and PicChooser (visit for more information on these technologies).

The Foundry’s comprehensive process has been crafted and implemented to identify, qualify and advance technologies to a point much further along the commercialization path than customary for academic research – even ERC research – implementing a “push-pull” strategy of rapidly developing these technologies into readily fundable local companies with scalable products.  Although QoLT’s primary charter is to create disruptive technologies for the benefit of people with reduced functional capabilities due to aging or disability, the potential applications for these universally designed QoLT products are much broader, enabling the exploitation of larger mainstream markets. In addition to the commercialization effort, the QoLT Foundry activities are proving to be a great vehicle to attract new members. Prospective members are able to see concrete evidence of the commercialization commitment with technology and platforms for their industries, opening their eyes to view the ongoing research as a value for longer-term horizons.

To view the technologies presented, click here.

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QoLT Foundry: Incorporation of & Funding for First Spin-out Company – NavPrescience, Inc.

navprescience imageThe Quality of life Technology Center is pleased to announce that in May 2009 NavPrescience inc. became the first spinout from Quality of Life Technology Center’s Foundry with a license of ERC technology from Carnegie Mellon University. Also in June, with the assistance of QoLT Foundry, NavPrescience was invited into Innovation Works’ AlphaLab incubator.  Innovation Works is the single largest investor in seed-stage companies in Southwestern Pennsylvania and one of the most active in the country.  AlphaLab is providing NavPrescience  space, marketing and future funding assistance, as well as seed money.

NavPrescience, Inc., located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is developing and commercializing GPS navigation and mobile information systems technology initially developed at Carnegie Mellon by three Carnegie Mellon researchers in the Computer Sciences and Robotics departments. The technology is based on a statistical machine learning framework and computational algorithms developed by three founders: Anind K Dey, Drew Bagnell and Brian Ziebart.

NavPrescience systems enhance a driver’s ability to safely and efficiently reach their destination.  The adaptive systems can accurately anticipate the intended destination and preferred route and use the available live content without constant user intervention. We accomplish this goal with an efficient algorithm that leverages live content and a learned understanding of driver preferences and intentions to maximize the performance, while minimizing interaction, and thus creating a new experience using navigation systems.  The company plans to launch the initial product in the fourth quarter of 2009.

According to the company, NavPrescience will continually develop and bring to market innovative technology to create change in the mobile landscape with applications and services that enhance the user’s experience and encourage rapid adoption of context and location based services. The goal is to lead innovation for the Navigation, Mobile Phone and Location Based Service markets with adaptive solutions for individuals and business enterprises.’

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QoLT Foundry Announces a New Company:  VibeAttire, Inc.

vibe attire imageThe Quality of life Technology Center is pleased to announce that in June 2009 VibeAttire, Inc. was formed from the Quality of a  Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) student associated with the NSF’s Quality of Life Technology Center (ERC).  The QoLT Foundry is continuing to assist both companies as they actively engage in customer negotiations and seeking investors.

VibeAttire, Inc.  VibeAttire was created and developed by Aubrey Shick, a Ph. D. student at CMU in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), while she was receiving her BFA Degree in Industrial Design, also at CMU. The initial impetus for VibeAttire was to provide a means for the deaf, and those with hearing deficits, to experience the music that most of us take for granted and could not imagine doing without.  And with the new way of listening to music, with ear buds, very few people fully experience music as intended by those who have created it!  They hear it, but they do not feel it.  This one-dimensional experience is as limiting as it is for those with hearing deficiencies.

In the initial form, VibeAttire technology is incorporated in clothing and converts standard audio input information into a vibro-tactile experience.  The vibro-tactile experience provides a sense of pressure or touch using vibrating motors that are activated from the output of audio devices.  The system converts the audible sound to enable the specific motors, embedded into the apparel, to vibrate at mapped frequencies. This patent pending technology offers a complete way to create and experience music: for those over 35, it is regaining the full musical experience; for those under 35, it is a new way to listen to music - beyond the ear bud experience.

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QoLT Foundry Announces a New Company: invynt, LLC

lean & zoom imageThe Quality of life Technology Center is pleased to announce that in June 2009 invynt, LLC was formed from the Quality of Life Technology Center’s Foundry.  invynt is a Pittsburgh company commercializing technology developed by a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) student associated with the NSF’s Quality of Life Technology Center (ERC).  The QoLT Foundry is continuing to assist both companies as they actively engage in customer negotiations and seeking investors.

invynt, LLC, a new company, is commercializing the QoLT related and patent pending  technology Lean & Zoom.  This system was created and developed by Chris Harrison, a Ph. D. candidate at CMU in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) with the assistance of Anind Dey, a member of the QoLT faculty and Assistant Professor in the HCII.  Lean & Zoom uses non traditional methods as a command input to create an intuitive human-computer experience that improves quality of life.
People naturally lean towards items in order to better inspect then. The magnification provided by being physically closer can expose otherwise unseen details. However, the cumulative effects of repeated leaning can be detrimental to users’ posture, and can cause eyestrain, double vision, headaches and other vision-related problems. The magnitude of this problem is growing as people spend an ever-increasing amount of time in front of computers, mobile devices and even automotive display systems.
Lean and Zoom magnifies on-screen content in response to a user leaning forward (Figure 1). The zoom is directly proportional to the extent of the lean – the greater the lean, the greater the magnification. This alleviates dramatic leaning while making items more readable. When zoomed in, the mouse is used to pan around the screen. Lean and Zoom leverages users’ existing lean habits without requiring a modification to the user interface.

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2008 Highlights

QoLT Foundry Update: Moving Technology Research to Commercialization

With a grant from the Benedum Foundation and initial financial support of CMU’s Vice President for Research, the QoLT Foundry was established in March 2008 as a pilot program to accelerate the commercialization of research projects associated with QoLT.  The Foundry is led by an Executive-in-Residence with experience as a founder of a technology start-up and has held management roles in the medical device industry.  He is assisted by students in the MBA, law, engineering technology innovation, healthcare policy, and biotechnology management programs at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.  The Foundry has established working relationships with regional entrepreneurs, investors and technology-based economic development organizations that provide capital and seed funding, business expertise, and other vital resources to start-up companies.  In June several QoLT near-term commercialization opportunities were presented to a group of more than 30 of them. The QoLT Foundry will facilitate the commercialization process of these opportunities by providing the support through business plan creation, prototype development, establishing strategic relationships, building qualified and experienced management teams, and obtaining seed. Currently in progress are spin-off companies based on QoLT virtual coaches and perception/awareness technologies. The Foundry will convene a group again in early October where they will present for evaluation a new set of opportunities.  Visit QoLT Foundry(2008)

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QoLT's "Personal Agency" Technology Makes Computer Use Easier

Personal Agency graphicComputer technology has become an integral component in people’s lives for employment, recreation and socializing. Unfortunately, computers are not universally accessible and there is a growing population of people who are motivated to use computers, but find it difficult to do so. Many of these individuals lack access to experts who can advise them how to make their computers more accessible, and, even if they have access, their needs may change from day to day or over time.  We built learned statistical models based on pointing data collected from individuals with varying abilities. One model built by the authors was able to distinguish between pointing behaviors from individuals with pointing problems vs. individuals without with 92.7% accuracy. A second model is able to distinguish to predict the need for a specific adaptation based on a user’s performance with 94.4% accuracy. These results suggest that it may be feasible to use such models to automatically identify computer users who would benefit from accessibility tools, and to even make specific tool recommendations. This project is the first step in developing a suite of technologies that are able to monitor real world performance changes and suggest adaptations on the fly. This research was presented in January 2008 at the ACM conference on Intelligent User Interfaces. At right is an example task in which a user is attempting to click on a sequence of target.  Data from tasks such as these was used to train the learned statistical models.  Eventually we hope to leverage real-world use data for training instead.  Visit the Personal Agency project(2008)

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Intuitive Human-Robot Interface

Intuitive Human-Robot Interface graphic

We have developed an intuitive user interface for assistive manipulators that enables a user to interact directly with the robot. It is based on a skin – compatible with any robotic arm – that detects when any part of the robot contacts another object. When the user grasps the manipulator, it is placed in compliant mode such that it behaves as though it is lightweight and has low friction. The user is thus able to position the robot arm to augment her strength or range of motion. When she releases the robot, it holds position, allowing her to adjust her grasp point.  With this method of interaction, a powerful robot arm could enable an individual with weakened upper extremities to augment his or her strength, for instance to retrieve a heavy roasting pan from the oven and move it with relatively little exertion. Likewise, she might position the robot tog rasp a bowl, move it, and stabilize it while she adds and mixes ingredients. Because the user physically interacts directly with the robot, this interface is intuitive, requires little training and has low cognitive demands.  Visit the Mobility & Manipulation research thrust. (2008)

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