September 13, 2016

Ramesh Raskar Sets Sights on Launching Peer-to-Peer Invention Platforms for Global Impact

Photo credit: Len RubensteinPhoto credit: Len RubensteinRamesh Raskar, founder of the Camera Culture research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, is the recipient of the 2016 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Raskar is the co-inventor of radical imaging solutions including Femto-photography, an ultra-fast imaging camera 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. Raskar seeks to catalyze change on a massive scale by launching platforms that empower inventors to create solutions to improve lives globally.

Raskar has dedicated his career to linking the best of the academic and entrepreneurial worlds with young engineers, igniting a passion for impact inventing. He is a pioneer in the fields of imaging, computer vision and machine learning and his novel imaging platforms offer an understanding of the world that far exceeds human ability. Raskar has mentored more than 100 students, visiting students, interns and postdoctoral associates who, with his guidance and support, have been able to kick-start their own highly successful careers.

“Raskar is a multi-faceted leader as an inventor, educator, change maker and exemplar connector,” said Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “In addition to creating his own remarkable inventions, he is working to connect communities and inventors all over the world to create positive change.”

The Lemelson-MIT Prize honors outstanding mid-career inventors improving the world through technological invention and demonstrating a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The prize is made possible through the support of The Lemelson Foundation, the world’s leading funder of invention in service of social and economic change. Over the next three years, Raskar will be investing a portion of the prize money to support the development of young inventors.

“We are thrilled to honor Ramesh Raskar, whose breakthrough research is impacting how we see the world,” said Dorothy Lemelson, chair of The Lemelson Foundation. “Ramesh’s Femto-photography 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.”

Making the Invisible Visible
Raskar co-created Femto-photography in 2012, an advanced form of photography allowing cameras to see around corners. The technology, currently in development for commercialization, uses ultra-fast imaging to capture light at one-trillion frames per second, allowing the camera to create slow motion videos of light in motion. Raskar and his team have received significant funding from corporate sponsors including DARPA, the National Science Foundation and MIT to further develop the idea of using ‘scattered light imaging’ to see around corners; potential future applications include: avoiding car collisions at blind spots; detecting survivors in fire and rescue situations; and performing endoscopy and medical imaging to eliminate the need of an X-ray. Raskar is continuing this research to make the seemingly impossible possible – from reading a book without opening the cover to capturing images of out-of-sight objects using sound waves.

A Vision for Improved Eye-Care in the Developing World
Raskar is the co-founder of EyeNetra, an inexpensive, disruptive eye-care platform that spun-out of Media Lab research. EyeNetra enables on-demand eye testing in remote locations via a hand-held technology that snaps onto a mobile device. When looking into the binocular the user is provided with interactive cues to rapidly calculate a prescription for eyeglasses. The technology was created to eliminate the need for expensive diagnostic tools in the developing world; the young company has performed eye-tests for hundreds of thousands of subjects and is currently active in the U.S., Brazil and India.  Raskar’s team has also worked on many areas of preventable blindness, low vision and diagnostics at MIT and launched LVP-MITRA in 2013 in Hyderabad, India, a center where hundreds of young inventors have been co-inventing next generation screening, diagnostic and therapeutic tools for eye-care.

Empowering Social Impact among Youth and Entrepreneurs
Raskar is also the founder of the Emerging Worlds initiative, a year-round effort focused on solving some of the world’s most pressing problems and impacting billions worldwide. This initiative based at MIT links corporate members, government organizations, educational institutes and venture partners. The members, MIT researchers, young innovators and entrepreneurs work in very specific integrated ecosystems to spot problems, probe solutions, grow adoption and scale the deployment. This methodology was recently used at Kumbhathon for innovations at Kumbh Mela, a gathering of 30 million people and at the Digital Impact Square, a multi-million dollar living lab and open co-innovation center. Raskar has mentored several teams that span crowd-steering via use of cell tower data to display heat maps of crowd movements, stations to test vital statistics using portable instruments and an analytics-based system to detect impending epidemic outbreaks in real time.

Launching Co-Innovation Pathways for Young Inventors
Raskar states: “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.” He plans to use a portion of the Lemelson-MIT Prize money to launch a new effort using peer-to-peer invention platforms that offer new approaches for helping young people in multiple countries to co-invent in a collaborative way. Visit http://redx.io to learn more or apply.

He will speak at EmTech MIT, the annual conference on emerging technologies hosted by MIT Technology Review at the MIT Media Lab on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

Seeking Nominees for 2017 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize
The Lemelson-MIT Program is now seeking nominations for the 2017 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Please contact awards-lemelson@mit.edu or click here to learn more.