Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

Piper Logo
February 03, 2012

CMU Technology Featured at World-Famous Electronics Show

By Kristen Sabol

CESCarnegie Mellon professors and researchers are hoping the adage "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" doesn't apply to their recent visit to the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where more than 150,000 attendees viewed the latest and greatest technology creations.

"CES and the Silvers Summit provide valuable exposure opportunities for the QoLT Center, Carnegie Mellon University and the National Science Foundation - both within the raw science and innovation communities as well as in the public at large," said Jim Osborn, executive director of the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center. "Of all the positive feedback received at the show, I was most struck by one visitor's casual observation that Carnegie Mellon is alone amongst its peers as a CES exhibitor. CMU is showing the world's Consumer Electronics audience what technologies are happening next, while the other leading universities are not present."

Yun Huang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Robotics Institute, attended the annual Las Vegas extravaganza to exhibit Tiramisu Transit, a real-time, crowd-powered bus-tracker app for iPhone or Android, developed in conjunction with CMU's Traffic21 Initiative. She said the experience was inspirational.

CES"Meeting entrepreneurs and getting to know what the newest technologies in industry will be can be tremendously inspiring," she said. "It really motivates students to work hard on their academic studies in the meantime and to make long-term plans for their career development."

The QoLT Foundry featured five CMU start-ups and several other innovations and partner collaborations. To see the full list, visit

"Through their QoLT Foundry, the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center (ERC) has developed an exemplary review and vetting process to move university-based research to commercialization," said Barbara Kenny, the National Science Foundation program director overseeing the center's grants. "We're pleased to see the QoLT ERC bring these engineering innovations, spin-off companies, and translational research projects more directly into the public eye."

Kristin Hughes, an associate professor in the School of Design, talked about Fitwits, during the CES's Digital Health Summit.

"It was a really incredible experience having the opportunity to be represented with the Quality of Life Technology Foundry and seeing some of what's coming out of Carnegie Mellon's Greenlighting Startups initiative," Hughes said. "From a design standpoint, it was really interesting to see the trends and see where the future of mobile devices and smart technology is going."

The Fitwits Program functions not only as an easy-to-use educational tool, but also bridges the gaps in health literacy, education, awareness and advocacy. It puts a strong emphasis on the confluence of individuals, family, community and society in approaching public health interventions.

Hughes said the team is working on a business model to attract investors.

"We received invaluable, positive feedback from the public on the merits of the Fitwits Program. All the hard work is starting to pay off."

Daniel. P. Siewiorek, QoLT acting director, served as a panel judge for the Silvers Summit first annual Sterling Awards. The Silvers Summit is a conference devoted to technological innovations for improving human longevity and vitality held in conjunction with
the CES.

One of the winners surprised him. Todd Bernard (CS'88), accepted the award for his company, AutoVerbal ProTalking.

"One of the most gratifying experiences at the 2012 CES was the opportunity to see several products created by CMU students and based on CMU technology successfully entering the global consumer space," Siewiorek said. "I was preparing for a panel presentation when I heard my own name mentioned in the Sterling Awards acceptance speech being played over the winning text-to-speech device. I was surprised to be cited as one of the people who inspired the product's developer and company founder as an undergraduate; indeed, it was a pleasure to directly witness the education of so many former students coming to full fruition at CES."    

Osborn led the panel "On the Road, On the Go: Mobilizing Your Product Development Efforts to Keep Up with the Fastest Growing Population Group." Siewiorek, Curt Stone and Aaron Steinfeld were panel participants at other sessions at the conference.

Modular Robotics, another CMU startup founded by Mark Gross, professor of computational design, and Eric Schweikardt, who earned his Ph.D. in architecture in 2008 at CMU, also had a booth at the CES. Modular Robotics makes fun robot construction kits for kids.

Carnegie Mellon is one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial universities in the U.S. Its students and faculty have helped to create more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs in the past 15 years. Earlier this year, the university launched its Greenlighting Startups initiative, a portfolio of CMU incubator groups designed to speed innovation from the research lab to the marketplace.

(from l-r) Aaron Steinfeld of Tiramisu Transit; Ivo Stivoric (A'93, MDE'98) of Bodymedia; Daniel and Karon Siewiorek, and Steven Radney (E'96, MPD'07) of VitalClip, visit during the Consumer Electronics Show.

Kristin Hughes, an associate professor in the School of Design, presented the Fitwits Program at the CES. She is working on a business model to attract investors.