Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MIT award for 18 top Indian techies

A synthesiser inspired by physicist Stephen Hawking's talking gadget, a cell phone system that gives alerts on cooking gas cylinder leaks and robots that perform root canal treatment and underwater clean- up - innovations such as these have won a bunch of young Indian techies a prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT) award.

TR35, a MIT Technology Review initiative, will honour this year's 18 top Indian innovators - who are aged under 35 - here on Tuesday.

Over two days, these young women and men will share the stage with top scientists. The innovators have been selected for developing technological solutions to common problems and their contributions hold great promise, the award jury said.

The innovations will change the world of many people. Rohit Jain, born in Chennai with cerebral palsy that affected his brain and immobilised him into silence, finished high school last year thanks to one of these gadgets.

Jain now studies Sociology at Loyola College, Chennai.

Made by a team of IIT Madras graduates, AVAZ - a custommade speech synthesiser - is now available for tests in institutions like Delhi's Tamanna special school.

AVAZ helps the children convert their gestures with head or fingers into speech with the aid of a micro- processor and sensors.

Ajit Narayanan, the key person behind AVAZ, has won this year's TR- 35 Innovator of the Year award.

Gautam Kumar, 26, of RoboticWares, Bhubaneshwar, won the Social Innovator award for a gadget that detects the smell of a LPG leakage. And it automatically sends text messages to five designated people over their cell phones.

The trigger for the device was a Bhubaneshwar blast that reminded Kumar's colleague Kushal Nahata of an earlier blast at Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where his parents lived.

Deepak Ravindran, 22, of Innoz Technologies in Gurgaon, won the telecom prize for a text- based cell phone search engine.

SMSGyan is a platform that can work with different databases to give answers of up to 500 characters - from dictionaries, cricket, stock market and gadgets price lists.

The digital slate developed by Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan of Microsoft Research Lab in Bangalore finds application in Kalahandi, Orissa, among poor people.

" Earlier self- help group members had to write out their accounts and leave a copy in a box," Sabyasachi Kar of the NGO Pradan, said. A messenger would collect them and take it to a far- away place with computer and electricity every week. Now the local women just have to place a plain paper on the new slate and enter data with a special pen.

Sameer Jain - of MGV Dental College, Nashik - won an award for his root canal machine. Then, there are robots that go underwater and those that clean ducts.

Others have developed technologies to secure Internet service provider's routing network and make printing ink eco- friendly.

Technology Review India Editor Srinivas Rao who led the project said: " It is heartening to see an increase in technology innovation in India."

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