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Indian Origin Scientist Ramesh Raskar Wins Lemelson MIT Prize

Ramesh Raskar. (Image courtesy: Google)

Dr. Ramesh Raskar, associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States, has won the $500,000 (roughly Rs 3.3 Crore) Lemelson-MIT Prize.

Raskar develops innovative imaging technologies, including an imaging system to read through closed books. Microsoft, Samsung, Adobe, Canon and Qualcomm are some of the companies that cite patents by Raskar.

More Than 75 Patents:

With more than 75 patents to his name, and having written more than 120 reviewed publications, Raskar is the co-inventor of radical imaging solutions including Femto-photography, an ultra-fast imaging system that can see around corners; low-cost eye-care solutions for the developing world; and a camera that allows users to read pages of a book without opening the cover.

Education:

Ramesh Raskar was born in Nashik,India and he finished his engineering education from College of Engineering, Pune. He finished his PhD at UNC Chapel Hill.

Lemelson-MIT Prize:

The annual Lemelson-MIT Prize honours outstanding mid-career inventors improving the world through technological invention and demonstrating a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program said, “Raskar is a multi-faceted leader as an inventor, educator, change maker and exemplar connector.

In addition to creating his own remarkable inventions, he is working to connect communities and inventors all over the world to create positive change.”

Raskar is best known for his invention of femtophotography, a solution that allows capturing images around corners. The technology is a one trillion frames per second camera. The camera tracks movements of photons through the air with slow motion videos. This technology has received funding for further research from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US National Science Foundation and MIT itself.

A commercial version of the technology is being developed. This can potentially be used by by cars to avoid collisions, by rescue workers in emergency situations, or for medical imaging solutions that are an alternative to Xrays.

Dorothy Lemelson, chair of The Lemelson Foundation said, “Ramesh’s femtophotography work not only has the potential to transform industries ranging from internal medicine to transportation safety, it is also helping to inspire a new generation of inventors to tackle the biggest problems of our time.”

Image: EyeNetra
Image: EyeNetra
Raskar is the co-founder of EyeNetra, a low cost eye care platform for developing nations. The Netra is a portable device that identifies and measures the extent of eye conditions. Hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism and pupillary distance is measured. The device is currently being used to provide eye tests to thousands of subjects in the US, Brazil and India.

In 2013, Raskar, with his colleagues, launched LVP-Mitra. The program is a collaboration between MIT and the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad. Innovative projects include a folding, paper based phoropter, an instrument used by opticians to diagnose eye conditions.

A device to identify retinal diseases.
A device to identify retinal diseases.

A wearable device, similar to virtual reality goggles for retinal diseases, with a screen for the medical professional. There is also a portable binocular device that tracks abnormal eye conditions across examinations, crowd sources the data, and uses machine learning to identify as yet unknown eye problems.

Pupil+, a portable device to measure responses to stimuli
Pupil+, a portable device to measure responses to stimuli. (Image courtesy: Google)

Raskar actively participates in the creation of collaborative platforms, that link researchers to government agencies, educational institutes and investors to solve problems affecting billions of people around the world. One such initiative is the Kumbathon sandbox for innovations at the Kumbh mela.

Raskar has also worked on big data projects. These include analysing crowd movements using cellular tower data, and detecting the outbreaks of epidemics in real time. Portable medical instruments for scanning vital statistics is another area of research for Raskar. He has developed technologies for light field cameras.

On receiving the Award, Ramesh Raskar said “Everyone has the power to solve problems and through peer-to-peer co-invention and purposeful collaboration, we can solve problems that will impact billions of lives.” Raskar wants to use part of the money to fund collaborative platforms for the youth. These form networks and clubs of young inventors around the world. To participate, head over to Redx Labs.

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