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11 Innovative Teams Receive Boost from Duke Incubation Fund

Quran Karriem and his research partner, Rebecca Uliasz, are interested in virtual play spaces that augment and inform physical experiences rather than replace them with an alternate reality. It was with this in mind that the team of doctoral candidates in Computational Media, Arts & Culture, created Synthball: a silicon ball containing series of digital motion sensors.

“It captures physical motion, performance and play and translates those gestures into real-time datastreams that are used as input for sound or visual synthesis,” explained Karriem. “It becomes an enchanted object.”

The Synthball and the accompanying software will be used in a dance performance that will debut at Durham’s Moogfest this spring.

“We had early evidence of the potential of remediating motion, but we needed additional resources to explore further uses,” lamented Uliasz.  “Our prototypes weren’t robust enough to provide to performers or athletes to experiment on their own, yet.”

That’s when they learned about the Duke Incubation Fund.

The Duke Incubation Fund was formed in Fall 2017 to support innovation in the early stages of ideation. Duke faculty, graduate students, post-docs and medical residents and fellows were eligible to apply.

Synthball was selected as one of 11 Duke Incubation Fund awardees this spring.  The $20,000 award will provide Karriem and Uliasz with the resources they need to develop a more robust version of the Synthball and to add range finding and indoor positioning technologies to the device.  From there they hope to explore further applications of their innovation in real-time analytics of major sports, children’s toys and augmented reality.

Also among the teams selected for an award this spring are Zachary Brecheisen and Daniel Richter of the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Brecheisen and Richter are interested in human-environment interactions, both of modern management, but also legacies of historic human activities on the land.  The team has developed a field portable gas analyzer to monitor soil respiration and analyze samples from buried soil gas reservoirs in a variety of remote field locations, such as hardwood forests, vineyards, and agricultural fields.

“The soil analysis tools available today are prohibitively expensive and require a separate power supply to operate.  The whole package can be in excess of 70 pounds,” stated Brecheisen.  “The battery-operated unit we are developing will be less than 20 pounds and will have data capture and analysis capabilities not available in the market.”

“We were extremely pleased with the quality and academic diversity of the applications this cycle,” commented Kip Frey, who directs Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E). “I am continually surprised at the creativity resident in the university community.  It is great to be able to support this innovation at its earliest stages.”

The Duke Incubation Fund is made possible by a generous gift from Jeffrey Citron and his wife Suzanne, parents of Duke sophomore Kyra Citron.  Citron is a longtime philanthropist and is the founder of high-speed Internet and broadband device company Vonage.

The Duke Incubation Fund expects to award more than $500,000 each year to up to 20 projects.  In addition to funding, teams receive coaching and mentorship from the Duke Venture Advisory group.

Duke Incubation Fund awardees for Spring 2018 include:

  • Dawn Bowles, Asst. Professor; Michael Watson, Clinical Research Coordinator, Surgery:Markers of heart failure susceptibility in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) gene
  • Zachary Brecheisen, Doctoral Candidate; Daniel Richter, Assoc. Professor, Soils and Ecology, Nicholas School: Field-portable oxygen and carbon dioxide analyzer and gas sampler
  • Adam Honeybrook, Chief Resident – Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery: A Novel Comprehensive Nasal Splint
  • Mohamed Ibrahim, Fellow, Surgery; Adam Wax, Professor, Biomedical Engineering; Bruce Klitzman, Assoc. Professor, Surgery: Real-time optical reader for implantable oxygen biosensors
  • Quran Karriem and Rebecca Uliasz, Doctoral Students, Computational Media, Arts & Cultures: Synthball
  • Greg Britz, Assoc. Dir Operations and Finance; Aaron Kutnick, Instructor, Art, Art History and Visual Studies; Alexa Dilsworth, DocX Lab Director, Center for Documentary Studies: Embodied Spatial Audio Mixing
  • Sze-Xian Lim, Doctoral Student, Biomedical Engineering; Chin Yee Tan, Doctoral Student, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology: YGORA (Your Good Old Research Assistant)
  • Michael Lynch, Asst. Professor; Eirik Moreb, Doctoral Student, Biomedical Engineering: CRISPR Enabled DNA Synthesis
  • Kamran Mahmood, Asst. Professor, Medicine; Pei Zhong, Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; Kim Lyerly, Professor, Immunology: Development of High-intensity Focused Ultrasound Device for Bronchoscopy and its Application for Lung Cancer Treatment
  • Ryan Shaw, Asst. Professor; Deborah Allen, Clinical Assoc.; Marybetch Tetlow, RN, School of Nursing: Line Snugglers, Evaluation in Adult Critical Care Populations
  • Joseph Camillo, Associate in Research; Leslie Collins, Professor; Joseph Malof, Assistant Research Professor; and Daniël Reichman, Research Scientist, Electrical & Computer Engineering: Deep learning for intelligent security camera surveillance

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