Carnegie Mellon University

August 3, 2016

O’Hara-based private equity fund looks to speed up medical progress

Velocity has raised about $25 million toward a $35 million goal and acquired interest in two companies — SkinJect, a novel way to treat skin cancer, and InClinica, a contract research organization that is based in Valley Forge, Pa.

SkinJect uses patches containing tiny needles, which delivers medication as the needles dissolve in the skin. The technology was developed by Louis Falo, a physician and chair of the Dermatology Department at the University of Pittsburgh, and O. Burak Ozdoganlar, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

June 30, 2016

Astrobotic names mission director for lunar landing

Astrobotic Technology named a Lockheed Martin veteran to be mission director as the company works toward becoming the first commercial company to land a spacecraft on the moon.

Sharad Bhaskaran joins Astrobotic after a career that included 25 years at Lockheed Martin and work on payloads for the Spacelab, Mir, the International Space Station and other projects. He was program manager for Lockheed Martin's West Coast portfolio and was picked after a nationwide search.

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

June 14, 2016

Energy analytics company aims for more effective smart meter readings

More and more, homeowners around Pittsburgh are equipped with digital data on their energy use gathered by smart meters. Duquesne Light Co. and West Penn Power Co. have both been installing more of the devices this spring.

Residential customers who have the meters can log into their online account and pull up a line graph that estimates daily usage, usually in measurements taken every 15 minutes. The conventional wisdom goes that the more informed customers are about their energy consumption, the more efficient their use will be.

A Pittsburgh energy analytics company is taking that notion to the next level — by harnessing 900 times more data, and for every electric appliance a homeowner runs. Early studies have shown that gathering that level of usage data, which is based on each second that appliances are humming along, is far more accurate than what utilities are looking at now.

Pioneering the new way of assessing home energy use is EEme LLC, a Carnegie Mellon spin-out based in Shadyside. EEme is trying to make energy efficiency more accessible for homeowners by making smart meter readings more effective, said Enes Hosgor, its founder and chief executive.

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

June 7, 2016

Voci partnering with Australian tech firm Nuix

Australian technology company Nuix announced a licensing and distribution agreement with Voci Technologies Inc., a Pittsburgh-based provider of voice analytics.

Voci is based in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. Its system resulted from a decade of research and development in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University. A single Voci application can process more than 100 hours of audio in one hour of clock time, providing transcripts of recorded or live audio sources in English or Spanish. More languages are expected to be added in the future, Voci said.

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

June 2, 2016

Astrobotic snags three big names to help with moon mission

Pittsburgh-based aerospace company Astrobotic Technology has added three big-name partners to help in its quest to make the first private landing of a payload on the moon. Delivery giant DHL will be providing all earthbound logistics services for the payloads planned for Astrobotic’s first lunar mission, and Airbus Defense and Space will be helping with the engineering of Astrobotic’s Pittsburgh-developed lunar lander, which is competing for the Google LunarXprize as well as trying to establish a regular privately-owned lunar payload system.

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

May 24, 2016

Profile: Arush Kalra wanted to better design medical implants

Hand-eye coordination wasn’t a big worry for Arush Kalra, who isn’t a surgeon but nevertheless spent time last year practicing threading artificial valves through blood vessels and into animal and human hearts. What he wanted — the reason for enrolling in the three-day class sponsored by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in Chicago — was to get inside the heads of the doctors there to help him better design medical implants. “I wanted to know what’s really going on in the mind of the surgeon,” said Mr. Kalra, who is chief scientific officer at Etna-based Peca Labs Inc., a maker of pediatric heart valve implants. “I wanted to know the mindset of the people who will be using these devices.” Mr. Kalra has bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India and a master’s degree in biomechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He is also helping to prepare Peca for a move to Lawrenceville while continuing to think about his company’s devices, mindful of the preparation and skill that will be needed to use them.

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

May 5, 2016

360fly raises $40M in Series C round

Pittsburgh-founded 360fly Inc., creator of 360-degree cameras based on robotics technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University, on Thursday said it has raised $40 million. The Series C financing round was led by private equity firm L Catterton. Existing investor Qualcomm Ventures also participated as did new investor Hydra Ventures.

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

April 29, 2016

Can Duolingo Crush the TOEFL?

The company made language learning fun. Can it break into the stodgy, lucrative market for language testing?

At some point, most nonnative speakers who want to cash in on their English—to go to university abroad or land a job with a multinational corporation—will have to take a test, probably one with a long acronym: the TOEFL, the IELTS, the TOEIC. These grueling exams can cost $200 or more, a small fortune in some developing countries, and must be taken at an official testing center, which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away. Like most high-stakes standardized tests, they have been the subject of withering criticism: that they don’t measure the kind of real-world English spoken in lecture halls or board rooms, that performance is just a proxy for socio-economic status, that cheating is widespread. What if you could make a cheaper, shorter, smarter test? Shouldn’t there be an app for that?

Right now, Carnegie Mellon University is quietly conducting a pilot study—brokered by a former dean of admissions at Yale and involving 10 other elite American institutions, a confidential mix of Ivies, state schools, and liberal arts colleges—to see whether a 20-minute exam taken via smartphone could evaluate the English ability of incoming international students better than existing tests such as the TOEFL. Originally $20, the test will be priced at $49 as of May 1. If it holds up under scrutiny, it would not only have a profound impact on the world of international admissions but also open up a hugely lucrative market for Duolingo, the Pittsburgh-based startup that developed the test and whose free, gamefied approach to language learning has already made it one of the most popular education apps in the world.

Read more at Slate.

April 19, 2016

VentureBridge Team Wins $65K Fellowship for Data Analytics Startup

Carnegie Mellon University students Amir Yahyavi and Saman Amirpour Amraii were recently awarded a $65,000 fellowship from Lightspeed Venture Partners (LSVP) to continue their business xSeer, a company that was developed through the Integrated Innovation Institute's VentureBridge program. This competitive summer fellowship selects only 10 out of more than 300 team applications each year that best exemplify entrepreneurship and innovation.

The technology behind xSeer was developed by Yahyavi and Amirpour as postdoctoral researcher and PhD candidates working at Carnegie Mellon's CREATE Lab, or the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab. The platform, Explorable Visual Analytics or "EVA", is a powerful tool that can take billions of rows of data with more than 100 dimensions or columns and present it in a visual format that users can better analyze and leverage. EVA displays five dimensions -- color, time and 3D (x,y,z) space -- that the user can adjust to be able to turn a massive amount of data into valuable, action-ready information.

Read more at CMU Integrated Innovation News.

April 12, 2016

CMU in final round of SpaceX Hyperloop competition: 30 minutes from here to NYC

Imagine a world where a commute from Pittsburgh to New York City would take 30 minutes. That dream is closer to becoming a reality, thanks in part to a group of Carnegie Mellon University students. Last January, a team from CMU traveled to Texas A&M University, where they took on more than 100 teams to become one of 22 semi-finalists in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition. Conceived by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the open competition tasked over 1,500 independent and student engineering teams with creating the best prototype for a high-speed ground transportation system. On Thursday, April 14, CMU Hyperloop will present their design during an on-campus information reception. Rahul Iyer, who works on corporate sponsorship and development for CMU Hyperloop, believes the event will educate attendees, and prepare the team for the final round of the competition.

Read more at Next Pittsburgh.

April 11, 2016

Seegrid’s vision guided vehicles have 10 “eyes” and offer cost savings and improved safety

Industrial plants have been dabbling in autonomous vehicles for nearly 50 years, but Pittsburgh-based Seegrid has raised the bar. The company’s stereoscopic, vision-guided system simulates the workings of a pair of human eyes, delivering a continuous stream of 3D images. By equipping their vision guided vehicles (VGVs) with a total of 10 cameras, or five sets of eyes, Seegrid has created VGVs that have an unobstructed 360-degree view at all times. The VGV’s 360-degree view comprises thousands of points, indicating both tangible objects and empty space. Environmental input is collected two times per second, and statistically interpreted to allow reflex-speed adjustments that make safe navigation possible.

Read more at Next Pittsburgh.

March 17, 2016

Moon Shot | Episode 1 | Pittsburgh: Astrobotic

March 7, 2016

4 Carnegie Mellon spinoffs acquired by global companies in 2015

Pittsburgh is on a roll. While everything from the food scene to the arts scene has captured the media spotlight, here’s what the global tech world sees: Autonomous cars, machine-translated language and robotics-assisted surgical access. That and more is all coming out of Pittsburgh.

Fed by nationally-recognized research universities, an existing manufacturing infrastructure and a healthy business network, Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial community is in high gear. And Amazon, Delphi Automotive (Delphi) and other global, household name companies are taking notice. They are acquiring Pittsburgh companies, scooping up intellectual property, integrating software solutions, expanding the application of robotics and creating new approaches to education.

Following is a brief recap of just a few Pittsburgh companies—all CMU spinoffs—that were acquired in high-profile deals in the last year.

Read more at Next Pittsburgh.

March 5, 2016

This Device Lets You Test The Air Pollution In Your House

The air inside our homes might not be as fresh as we think. Tiny, invisible pollutants from wood smoke, household cleaners, building materials and other everyday items can put people at risk for asthma, heart disease and more. For people who can’t afford expensive indoor air quality monitors, detecting these particles is next to impossible. But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new in-home sensor, called Speck, and plan to make it available to people virtually for free. The researchers want to place these Speck monitors in 100 libraries across the country. People would be able to check out a device — just like they’d check out a book — and use it to measure air quality in their home.

Read more at Huffington Post.

Febuary 25, 2016

Entrepreneurship, Carnegie Mellon Style

"inRes is an early stage acceleration program for Portuguese entrepreneurial teams. The program is part of the Information and Communication Technologies Institute, a partnership between Carnegie Mellon and the government of Portugal.

"The inRes program is a testament to CMU|Portugal's commitment to technology transfer and innovation, and an invaluable expression of Carnegie Mellon's broader dedication to international collaboration," said Jose F. Moura, Director of the CMU|Portugal Program. "inRes is one very exceptional example of CMU|Portugal programs that have precipitated many successful spinoffs, such as Veniam and Feedzai."

Feedzai, a highly successful company stemming from the CMU|Portugal program, uses machine learning for fraud prevention. Paulo Marques, CTO of Feedzai, presented to the 2014 inRes teams on the CMU|Portugal Program's importance in the U.S. startup market.

"I am excited to see how this year's group of entrepreneurs and all future teams chosen to participate in the inRes program will succeed in the tech innovation market," said Marques. "inRes and CMU|Portugal as a whole are proving to be an important pillar in the startup ecosystem of Portugal and the United States."

Along with Playsketch's concepts, the other teams are offering smart prosthetic-fitting solutions, generating 3-D scenes on a massive scale and providing project management services.

Each of the four teams was paired with experts who are part of CMU's entrepreneurial ecosystem, which includes the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), CIE's innovation incubator Project Olympus and the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation."

Read more at CMU News.

Febuary 23, 2016

Startup Cognistx ramps up hiring

"A Pittsburgh-region tech startup is more than doubling local staff as it readies for the May 15 launch of its first product, an app that will enable Monro Muffler Brake Inc. to make extremely customized offers to customers. Cognistx, which now employs seven at its Gibsonia tech hub, plans to hire at least 10 in the next few months and could have 20 here by year-end, CEO Sanjay Chopra said. Chopra, CMU professor Eric Nyberg and entrepreneur Jeff Battin co-founded Cognistx.

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

Febuary 18, 2016

New EdTech Fund Forges Vital Ties Between Developers and Teachers

The Sprout Fund’s Ed-Tech Refinery is supporting partnerships between emerging entrepreneurs and educators at schools, libraries, and museums in the Pittsburgh region.

"Nesra Yannier is a fifth-year PhD candidate in human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University whose background includes computer science, design, art, and education. She drew on these skills in creating NoRILLA, a classroom technology that teaches kids the basic physics of balance. Her prototype includes an app, a projector, some building blocks, and an electronic table that shakes. When students use it, an animated gorilla challenges them to build towers on the platform and predict which will fall first when an “earthquake” shakes the table.

>Normally, edtech developers like Yannier would be on their own when trying to connect with teachers and students to test their concepts in real-world settings. But Yannier is part of a Sprout Fund initiative called the Ed-Tech Refinery, which is supporting efforts by ambitious young visionaries to partner up with educators at schools, libraries, and museums in the Pittsburgh region."

Read more at Remake Learning.

Febuary 16, 2016

Pittsburgh biotech company names new CEO

"Carmell Therapeutics has named Randy Hubbell as its new CEO. The Pittsburgh-based biotech company is a spinout from Carnegie Mellon University that has developed a technology to make material from human blood plasma that it says helps the healing process. It was founded in 2007, and its previous CEO was Alan West, who remains with the company as COO."

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

Febuary 2, 2016

Duolingo, Uber launch English-speaking service in Rio de Janeiro

"Traveling by Uber is about to be much easier for tourists in Rio de Janeiro. Pittsburgh-based Duolingo has partnered with Uber to launch UberEnglish, which allows users to request an English-speaking driver through the Uber app. The service launches ahead of Brazil's Carnival, which begins Feb. 5, and the upcoming Olympic games, which take place in Rio this summer."

Read more at Pittsburgh Business Times.

Febuary 1, 2016

Startup Sharp Edge Labs turns business plan upside down

Drug company went from selling patented dyes to creating in-house cures

"Pittsburgh is rarely mentioned in the same sentence with drug development hubs like Cambridge, Mass., even Philadelphia. In southwestern Pennsylvania, the number of companies finding new medications could probably be counted on one hand. Sharp Edge is among the green shoots. The company, which was founded in 2010 by Mr. Bruchez and his 73-year-old mentor, Mr. Waggoner, has six employees and a lab on Sidney Street on the South Side. Sharp Edge’s chemical tags are made in Harmar Township. Company founders Waggoner and Bruchez are Carnegie Mellon University researchers, who have licensed technology from CMU to create a way to quickly screen drug compounds for the treatment of genetically based diseases."

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

January 10, 2016

CMU creates device, app to monitor home air pollution

"When her son was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago, Patrice Tomcik said she wanted to protect the 3-year-old from environmental exposures she believed may have contributed to the cancer. But few options were available to monitor air pollution levels, let alone control them. The Butler County woman was particularly concerned about the proximity of natural gas fracking operations and a compressor station to her home in Adams. “Early on, what could we do to protect ourselves?” said Ms. Tomcik, 45, married and the mother of two sons. The only real option was, which provides regional pollution levels online every half hour."

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

January 9, 2016

Bosch to Open New Technology Center in Pittsburgh to Accommodate Growth

"Oxford Development Company and Robert Bosch LLC – a leading global supplier of technology and services – announced that Bosch will locate its 51,667-square-foot Research and Technology Center in the 3 Crossings development of the city’s Strip District, which is increasingly becoming a hub for emerging tech-and innovation-focused companies as well as companies in the business of manufacturing. Expected to open in July 2016, the new space will accommodate the growth of the company’s business units, including its subsidiary Akustica – a world leader in microelectromechanical systems microphone products and a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spinoff – in addition to Bosch’s Research and Technology Center. “Bosch is experiencing continued, significant growth in many regions, and this is especially true in Pittsburgh,” said Mike Mansuetti, president, Robert Bosch LLC. “We have been in this area for many years and have formed many successful collaborations with other companies and organizations, like [CMU]. We look forward to continuing our presence in such an exciting, tech-focused part of the region, and adding to its growing reputation as a hub for innovation.” The announcement follows Bosch’s September investments in CMU totaling $3.5 million, including a $1 million gift to CMU’s David A. Tepper Quadrangle and a $2.5 million gift for an endowed professorship. These gifts celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Carnegie Bosch Institute, where researchers have partnered on joint research projects across a variety of fields including smart buildings, intelligent personal assistants and cybersecurity."

Read more at Allegheny Conference.

January 4, 2016

What Happens When Facial Recognition Tools Are Available to Everyone

"Chances are, you're already familiar with facial-recognition software, even if you've never spent time in an artificial-intelligence lab. The algorithm that Facebook uses for tagging photos, for example, is a version of facial-recognition software that can identify faces with 97.3 percent accuracy. The problem with most of today's facial-recognition software, however, is that it's computationally very intensive and difficult to use for more than just matching simple photos. If you could speed up the process of recognizing faces, add the ability to track facial features and make it so easy that it could be used as a smartphone app by anyone - then it might open up important new opportunities. That's the goal of AI researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Human Sensing Laboratory. Starting in February, they will make available their facial-image-analysis software to fellow researchers. The software, known as IntraFace, is fast and efficient enough that it can be installed as a smartphone app."

Read more at Gadgets 360.