Innovation & Investment in Technology (September 2015)

Gill Pratt, Ph.D. (MA B ’83), has been hired by Toyota Motor Corp. as an executive technical advisor “as part of a $50 million investment in artificial-intelligence research designed to reduce highway deaths and injuries.” Dr. Pratt has spent the past five years at DARPA as program manager of the Darpa Robotics Challenge. He is also known for his work “directing the MIT Leg Laboratory, focusing on the development of robots with legs and devices for helping people walk.”

“One million people worldwide die in car accidents every year,” Dr. Pratt said. “Our goal is to eliminate highway collisions without eliminating the fun of driving.” Click here to read more about Toyota’s AI program with Dr. Pratt and on the campuses of MIT and Stanford University.


Crain’s Detroit Business is reporting that James Dyson, Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner inventor, has invested $15 million in Sakti3 Inc. and Ann Marie Sastry, Ph.D. (DE A ’89). Dr. Sastry is co-founder and CEO of Sakti3 developer of new battery technology that was recently invited to the first White House Demo Day. According to the article, “Sakti3 uses what is called a thin-film deposition process to make its batteries.”

Dr. Sastry has written 100 papers for scientific publications, has been co-inventor on more than 70 awarded and filed patents, and was a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan from 1995 to 2012.


The University of Rhode Island and biomedical engineering professor Walt G. Besio, Ph.D. (FL B ’00), have received a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation for research to show how the nervous system functions in health and disease. Dr. Besio “will join colleagues from institutions in Kentucky and Oklahoma on the project working to develop tools to image, sense, and record brain function and deliver stimuli to the brain to treat neurological diseases such as epilepsy, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.”

“We’re going to create a portable integrated system to get electrical and neurovascular activity from the brain,” said Dr. Besio. Read the article for more information on Dr. Besio, a RI Beta Chapter advisor, and his research.


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