We all have passions. Some of us aspire to use them to drive innovations to help change the world. There are places where such innovators can come together to do just that. Those places are the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute in New York City, and the Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Shantou, China.
These Innovators are a distinct collection of Technion scientists, alumni and thought leaders who strive every day to create promising new technologies, successful products and start-ups. Each recognizes the power of education for the greater good and all possess an insider’s understanding that Tech is in Israel’s DNA. Advancing technologies is inherent in everything the Technion does in Israel, New York, China, and around the world.
Enabling blind people to see through interactive technology
While many of us contemplate going offline to take a break from information overload, others have not had that luxury. Until now. Professor Shiri Azenkot is developing technology for existing smartphones that would allow blind people and those like herself suffering from low vision. Her latest research explores how augmented reality applications can enhance people’s vision and help them perform daily activities. Applications include shopping, way-finding, and socializing.
Opening the world of communication to those who are paralyzed
“Sesame is out to foster equality through cutting-edge technology. We apply state of the art know-how to underserved audiences.”
Almost overnight, Technion alumnus Oded Ben Dov quit his commercial video gaming enterprise to create the first completely touch-free smartphone for the disabled. The Sesame Phone, developed with fellow Technion graduate Giora Livne, who is a quadriplegic, is powered by voice control and uses cutting-edge head-tracking technology to open a new world of communication and independence for quadriplegics, people suffering from ALS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, and others who have limited or no use of their hands. The technology has won numerous awards including Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award for $1 million and Michael Bloomberg’s Genesis Generation Challenge. Oded earned his Technion bachelor’s degree in computer science, focusing on image processing and artificial intelligence.
Empowering paraplegics to stand, walk and even participate in marathons
After a tragic tractor accident in 1997 left Dr. Amit Goffer confined to a wheelchair, he marshaled his Technion know-how to invent an upright alternative. The result was ReWalk — a wearable exoskeleton that enables individuals with lower limb paralysis to walk again. The battery-powered system relies on sensors that anticipate shifts in the user’s balance and translates them into movements, like walking and standing. Wearers also benefit from improved cardiovascular health and gastrointestinal functioning. The first commercially available exoskeleton in the U.S., ReWalk won “best invention” awards from Popular Science and Time. Dr. Goffer earned his Technion bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1995.
In December of 2015, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced coverage for the robotic exoskeleton to help paralyzed soldiers walk again.
First in the U.S. to own the pioneering ReWalk device
“Innovations from the Technion have changed my life! By using devices like ReWalk, I have regained physical abilities that otherwise would have been permanently lost. Innovation from the Technion has inspired me to continue to innovate in my own life as an entrepreneur. The incredible work being done there has forced me to rethink what is possible.”
In June 2012, Marine Corps Captain Derek Herrera was leading a patrol in Afghanistan when a sniper’s bullet entered his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Researching new technologies, he found ReWalk—a robotic exoskeleton created by Technion alumnus Dr. Amit Goffer that enables paraplegics to walk. Herrera participated in clinical trials, and in 2014, when ReWalk received FDA approval for personal use in the U.S., he became the first American to own his own ReWalk device. A year later, Herrera, who received a Bronze Star for his bravery in the Marines, launched the medical device startup Spinal Singularity.
Monitoring air quality for a healthier environment
How smoggy is too smoggy? Just plug your street address into the air pollution monitor application BreezoMeter for a real-time assessment. BreezoMeter will tell you which park is healthier to play in with your kids, or whether you should minimize your exposure to outdoor air pollution. Every year more than 3.5 million people die because of air pollution. Awareness is just as critical as prevention. Ran earned his Technion bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and had vast experience in environment and health prior to co-founding BreezoMeter.
Monitoring air quality for a healthier environment
“We are passionate about the environment, technology and the innovation that brings the two together. BreezoMeter was created to empower people with the information they need to take control of their well-being.”
After hiking all over the world and seeing massive environmental degradation, Ziv refocused his passion on studying environmental engineering. While interning at the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, he received a phone call from Ran Korber seeking advice on the healthiest place to live in Israel. The solution was BreezoMeter. Named one of the world’s 20 most promising start-ups, BreezoMeter combines publicly available data with information developed by proprietary algorithms to map air quality worldwide, predicting how pollution will disperse over a given area. He earned his Technion bachelor’s degree in environmental Engineering.
Revolutionizing cancer treatment through nanotechnology
“Being a cancer survivor myself and understanding the patients’ needs . . . made me believe that although I am not a physician . . . I have the engineering tools that can allow me to bring the power of technology and engineering into cancer treatment.”
Recruited to the Technion in 2007 to conduct biotechnology research, Professor Segal has focused her work on improving the detection and monitoring of microbial contamination in food packaging. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, she widened her interests to include medical research. Currently, she is developing silicon drug carriers at the new Technion Integrative Cancer Center that are promising effective, focused and personalized treatments for cancer. She is also helping to develop a “lab on a chip” that can diagnose diseases while a patient waits in the doctor’s office. She earned all three of her degrees at the Technion.
Helping people overcome speech disorders
“Stuttering and other speech disorders are debilitating and impact one’s personal, social and professional life. I have seen my son struggle, and decided to combine my Technion Ph.D. education with 15 years of high-tech experience to help my son and his fellow sufferers.”
An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from speech disorders. The gains made using traditional speech therapy are often temporary. NiNiSpeech is a virtual speech clinic in your smartphone that helps people with speech disorders achieve long-term remedies. NiNiSpeech provides online therapy with real-time feedback, practice partners and speech games. The company won the 2016 Global Innovation Award in Beijing, and the European Union eHealth competition, and is on its way to become the largest global speech clinic.
Applying Image Processing to Fashion
“The Technion taught me to take a big problem, break it into small building blocks, create a solution for each piece, then zoom out and combine the solutions to make the system work.”
Using sophisticated image-processing technology, Zeekit is a fashion startup app that removes the hit-and-miss aspect of online clothes shopping by enabling shoppers to “try on” clothing, virtually, before buying. Often called the “Google of Fashion,” the award-winning technology applies algorithms that Vizel formulated at the Technion and tweaked while at Elbit Systems, to map the e-commerce fashion world in a new way. Zeekit was unveiled during New York Fashion Week 2016 through a partnership with Rebecca Minkoff.
Creating the operating room of the future
“The Technion understood early on that its relationships with industry are critical for the ability to innovate — to think out of the box — and from the beginning, invested heavily in developing these types of relations.”
Imagine going in for an operation one day and returning to work the next. That’s the operating room of the not-so-distant future envisioned by INSIGHTEC. Technion alumnus and company founder Dr. Kobi Vortman developed MRI guided Focused Ultrasound Technology to non-invasively treat tumors inside the body without the need for incisions. The technology has received FDA approval to treat uterine fibroids and cancer pain from bone metastases, and is focused on treating Parkinson’s and the treatment of essential tremors.