Academics Science and Technology

UM’s Innovative Technology Featured at eMerge Americas

B2B Technology Event Showcases Work of UM Researchers
eMerge Americas 2016

With the music of American rapper Pitbull playing over loudspeakers, Jennifer Lopez, a nurse at University of Miami Hospital, walked up and down a 20-foot section of the Miami Beach Convention Center’s exhibition floor—her prosthetic right leg moving in perfect rhythm.

The music played clearly with each step of Lopez’s graceful gait. But whenever she altered her stride—walking with a limp, for example—the music became distorted.

Months ago, when Lopez began a difficult rehabilitation process, UM researchers and physical therapists attached external sensors to her prosthetic leg, syncing them to music played through her iPhone. The sensors captured Lopez’s ideal walking pattern, and now, whenever she deviates from it, the sound of the music she listens to in her ear buds warps, reminding Lopez that she had gotten off stride.

“It’s like having a physical therapist in my ear,” said Lopez, who listened to music by Taylor Swift, Journey, and, of course, her namesake, singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, during her rehab.

Such was just one of the many examples of University of Miami-developed technology on display at the third eMerge Americas, a major B2B technology event held April 18-19 on Miami Beach.

Under the pillars of smart cities, visualization, and health care, UM’s exhibit area, located near the front of the exhibition hall, highlighted the work of faculty and staff from the College of Engineering, the School of Architecture, the Frost School of Music, the School of Education and Human Development, the School of Communication, the Center for Computational Science, UHealth, and U Innovation.

The School of Architecture’s Responsive Architecture and Design, or RAD-UM, Lab demonstrated two of its latest technologies aimed at promoting poignant visualization techniques and the concept of smart cities. A 64-jar algae bio-reactor display of the “U” provided attendees with a glimpse of the beauty and utility of interwoven nature and art.

“Each jar is a pixel that, when amalgamated, becomes whatever image you’d like,” said Chris Chung, a research associate at the RAD-UM Lab.

The algae’s rate of growth is manipulated by the amount of CO2 it receives and the number and size of LED lights placed in each jar. When the image is fully formed, the algae is flushed out and can be used as a biofuel.

UM Architecture’s RAD-UM Lab also featured the second iteration of its RAD interactive table. The display uses 3D-printed models of existing or planned buildings in Miami and, with fiducials or coded stickers, displays information pertinent to the building itself, its spatial orientation, and geographic location.

The table brings the “internet of things” to life, a concept promoted by dean Rodolphe el-Khoury.

Chris Bennett, a research assistant professor with the Frost School of Music, and Robert S. Gailey, Jr., professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, exhibited a unique idea borne out of the Functional Outcomes Research and Evaluation, or FORE, Lab that combines the fields of music, physical therapy, and engineering.

Crowds gathered around the exhibit area to see UM alumna Jennifer Lopez, who lost her right leg after a tragic accident two years ago, demonstrate the FORE Lab’s mobile application. With external sensors attached to her prosthetic leg, the app communicates information to her about her gait through her headphones by warping or improving the music.

Other health care exhibitors at the UM booth included Giovanni Lenguito from the College of Engineering and Siddarth Rawal from the Miller School of Medicine displaying their ‘organs on a chip’ technology.

Currently being used primarily for diabetes research, these chips can “simulate a micro-human,” said Lenguito, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Each chip, encased in plastic, contains human cells of one organ.

“Right now we study them independently but we can then add in different organs and study the interactions of human cells whose nutrients are manipulated to replicate maladies such as diabetes or heart disease,” said Lenguito.

Eric Stepansky, an outside business development and operations manager, and Lee Kaplan, chief of UHealth’s Sports Medicine Division, displayed UHealth’s recent mobile app, SirenMD.

SirenMD is a mobile app that is a “giant HIPPA-compliant group chat between any medical professional that cares about the health and recovery of a patient,” said Stepansky.

The app is currently targeted to sports medicine professionals at all levels—high school, college, and professional sports. SirenMD is currently in the beta phase with UM Athletics and over 25 other athletics departments across the country.

Nicholas Tsinoremas, Chris Mader, and Amin Sarafraz of the Center for Computational Science (CCS) proudly displayed the center’s initiatives under its Smart Cities focus area. Exhibited projects included technology for mapping informal cities in Latin America, the Miami Affordability Project, and a historic preservation project in the Bahamas.

Using drones that fly at around 40 meters (over 130 feet) high and taking two photos per second using a GoPro camera, CCS faculty, researchers, and students are able to create an orthophoto of an area to create digitized maps that can be manipulated and processed using GIS.

Creating an orthophoto means making the scale of the aerial photograph uniform and lacking distortion, in other words, removing the “fisheye effect.”

“Processing images from the drone is the more computationally-intensive process, but with the power of (CCS’s) supercomputer, the process is much more efficient,” said Mader, director of the center’s software engineering resources group.

Researchers are then able to create 3-D models of hundreds to thousands of photos and can annotate features such as buildings, streets and other infrastructure. The center’s work is done to support improved urban planning and public policy.

Xiangyang Zhou, director of the College of Engineering’s Materials Lab and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, exhibited his patented supercapacitor, a solid state battery with the potential to revolutionize the renewable energy industry.

Zhou and his research assistants, including Yuchen Wang, excitedly described the myriad ways in which the battery can be used. The scientists have already been tapped by agencies such as the Emil Buehler Foundation and NASA to build a prototype of a model plane and a satellite that will be shot into outer space, respectively.

The battery is made from lightweight material that saves space, weight, and time. The material can be used for a host of applications including the bodies of cars, satellites, and airplanes. The material itself is the battery and, better yet, it takes only minutes to charge. The supercapacitor also has beneficial implications for rural areas with little to no access to the main power supply grid. The battery has the opportunity to create completely sustainable and green buildings as the building material itself would generate its own power.

“I’m most excited for (the battery’s use) in renewable energy, for no fossil fuels. That’s my dream for this beautiful planet,” said Zhou.

Complementing the Smart Cities pillar was a display of sustainable concrete that uses composite materials such as carbon fiber, glass fiber reinforced polymer, or GFRP, and basalt, rather than steel, a common reinforcement material for concrete structures.

Guillermo Claure and Seyedmorteza Khatibmasjedi, both researchers with the College of Engineering’s Structures and Materials Lab, or SML, explained how their SEACON project can transform the building industry and be a boon to societies and ecosystems.

“Right now, we can’t use saltwater to make concrete because the steel reinforcement will corrode from the chloride. Switching to non-corrosive composite material will free up a lot of freshwater resources that are currently needed to make concrete,” said Khatibmasjedi.

Claure also described the forthcoming inauguration of the Innovation Bridge at the UM Coral Gables campus, the first bridge on campus to be made of composite materials instead of steel. The bridge is expected to open in late April.

Dean Isaac Prilleltensky, Ora Prilleltensky, and Samantha Dietz of the School of Education and Human Development exhibited their Fun for Wellness online tool, created from research on positive psychology. The tool is a psychoeducational self-efficacy improvement tool that provides an accessible means to enhance what Dietz calls “interpersonal wellness synergy.”

Users of the interactive tool set goals and work through challenges related to the six I COPPE Domains of Life, or areas of well-being, which are interpersonal, community, occupational, physical, psychological, and economic.

The Web-based software guides the user through challenges, or games, that focus on improving these six areas of well-being through a paradigm called the BET I CAN Drivers of Change, which target behaviors, emotions, thoughts, interactions, context, awareness, and next steps.

“The tool, with text, videos, and interactive games, serves as a cost-effective alternative to counseling,” said Dietz.

“Fun for Wellness can also serve as a complement tool for physicians to help guide patients,” said Ora Prilleltensky. “The possibilities are endless.”

On Monday morning, School of Communication Knight Chair in Visual Journalism Alberto Cairo also gave a presentation on the power and importance of data visualization at the conference’s Textpert stage.

University leadership was at the conference in support of UM faculty and researchers. President Frenk, Dean Jean Pierre Bardet of the College of Engineering, Dean Leonidas Bachas of the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, and Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs Sergio Gonzalez visited the UM booth and spoke with University innovators about their work.

At the eGOV stage, President Frenk spoke on Monday afternoon on the University’s hemispheric innovation strategy, noting that “UM is a comprehensive research university that can take advantage of its location at the gateway to the Americas.” UM’s eMerge Americas exhibitors were a perfect reflection of this strategy.