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October 11, 2013: Company Founded by USC Viterbi Researchers Receives Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Innovator Award

Press Release
CONTACT: Megan Hazle (USC Viterbi) – (213) 821-5555 or hazle@usc.edu
October 11, 2013 —

Robots Get A Feel For The World from USC Viterbi on Vimeo.

SynTouch LLC, a company co-founded by biomedical researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has been awarded a 2013 Breakthrough Innovator Award by Popular Mechanics for its BioTac® sensor.

Today, Popular Mechanics announced the winners of its ninth annual Breakthrough Awards, which recognize the innovators and products that have advanced the fields of technology, medicine, space exploration, automotive design, and more. The awards are presented in two categories: innovators whose inventions will make the world smarter, safer and more efficient, and products that are setting benchmarks in design and engineering today.

“Each year’s recipients are awe-inspiring as they shape our future through life-changing ideas and innovative products,” said James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics. “We are excited to recognize this year’s incredible list of visionaries… and share their breakthroughs that not only capture the imagination, but improve and save lives as well.”

In 2008, a team of researchers from USC’s Medical Device Development Facility (MDDF), including biomedical engineering professor Gerald Loeb and then-doctoral student Jeremy Fishel (PhD ’12), co-founded SynTouch to manufacture and market the tactile sensors for mechatronic systems that they had developed, which mimic the human fingertip. SynTouch, recently designated a Technology Pioneer for 2014 by the World Economic Forum, has developed and commercialized the BioTac® sensor, an artificial human fingertip that has soft, flexible skin over a liquid filling which allows robotic hands to feel and identify different materials by touch.

"This is an exciting affirmation of a five year team-effort with some great students and colleagues from USC," said Loeb, USC MDDF Director.

Loeb established USC MDDF when he joined USC in 1999. This laboratory, part of the USC Viterbi Department of Biomedical Engineering, is home to a wide range of neural engineering projects, including injectable neuromuscular stimulators and sensors for paralyzed limbs, tactile sensors for mechatronic prostheses, and computer modeling software to develop and test command and control algorithms. USC MDDF serves as a living laboratory for advancement and teaching of all aspects of medical device development, including design controls, quality systems, regulatory compliance and technology transfer to industry.

Loeb works on neural prosthetics and helped develop the cochlear implant now used to restore functional hearing to the deaf. Fishel earned his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering as well as in aerospace and mechanical engineering from USC Viterbi. Both researchers are partners in SynTouch, where Loeb is Chief Executive Officer and Fishel is Director of Research.

The honorees will be recognized in the November issue of Popular Mechanics, available on newsstands on October 15, and also celebrated at a day-long conference and gala awards ceremony at Hearst Tower in New York City on October 22. Loeb, Fishel and Vikram Pandit of SynTouch will be in attendance to accept the award on behalf of SynTouch.

In selecting the candidates and winners of the 2013 Breakthrough Awards, the editors of Popular Mechanics canvassed a wide range of experts, including dozens of past Breakthrough Award winners, in fields ranging from aerospace and robotics to medicine and energy. PM editors tested hundreds of products in a wide range of categories throughout the year to arrive at the true game-changers for the Breakthrough product awards.

More information on this year’s honorees can be found on the Popular Mechanics website here (Q&A with Peter Diamandis), here (the innovators) and here (the products).

 

About the USC Medical Device Development Facility (MDDF)
The Medical Device Development Facility was started by Dr. Gerald Loeb when he moved to USC in 1999. It has been the home to a wide range of projects that involve feasibility studies, design, development and clinical testing of medical devices. Most of these projects are in the general field of neural engineering and many are related to sensorimotor function. The MDDF has pioneered BIONs (injectable neuromuscular stimulators and sensors) for paralyzed limbs, tactile sensors for mechatronic prostheses, and computer modeling software to develop and test command and control algorithms. The MDDF serves as a living laboratory for advancement and teaching of all aspects of medical device development, including design controls, quality systems, regulatory compliance and technology transfer to industry. http://mddf.usc.edu

About the USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. Consistently ranked among the top graduate programs in the world, the school enrolls more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, taught by 177 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 60 endowed chairs and professorships. http://viterbi.usc.edu

About SynTouch
SynTouch LLC developed and makes the only sensor technology in the world that endows robots with the ability to replicate - and sometimes exceed - the human sense of touch. Its lead product - the BioTac® - mimics the physical properties and sensory capabilities of the human fingertip. Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Los Angeles, SynTouch provides Machine Touch™ - complete tactile sensing solutions for industrial, medical and military applications: www.syntouchllc.com

Contact
Megan Hazle – (213) 821-5555 or hazle@usc.edu