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New Caltech Center for Sensing to Intelligence (S2I) Launches Collaboration With Rockley Photonics

Published on Thursday, December 2, 2021 | 5:48 am
S2I researchers (left to right): Anima Anandkumar, Alireza Marandi, Azita Emami, Changhuei Yang, and Katherine (Katie) L. Bouman

The Caltech Center for Sensing to Intelligence (S2I) has announced that, in collaboration with Pasadena-based Rockley Photonics, a photonics-based health monitoring and communications solutions company, it will allocate $1.5 million in research grants over the next three years to jumpstart efforts to combine sensors with artificial intelligence.

“We would like to have sensors in every device these days, generating a huge amount of data,” says Azita Emami, Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and the director of S2I. “But it’s difficult to extract the most important information from the mountains of data they create.”

To address that, Emami and her colleagues at S2I plan to create a whole new generation of smart devices and instruments. Founded in 2020, S2I is a broad effort that unites researchers from many disciplines across campus and at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. “This can be applied to medical devices, instrumentations for discovery, efforts regarding sustainability and environment. Almost everything in engineering involves sensing, imaging, and data processing. The goal is to look at this holistically instead of doing isolated efforts,” Emami says.

This first industry-supported call for proposals offers awards of between $200,000 and $450,000 to faculty and engineers on campus and at JPL who are working in the areas of health monitoring, sensing, 3-D imaging, machine vision, artificial intelligence and data analytics, and advanced optics and photonics technologies for these efforts.

Overall, S2I hopes to push relevant research forward in three key areas: health, discovery, environment. On the health front, S2I is already pursuing creation of noninvasive body monitoring sensors, prosthetics that can be controlled with just the mind, and a new fast and painless breast cancer screening technology. On the discovery front, S2I is developing ways to detect flaws inside objects just by taking images of them. On the environment front, the center is working to develop more stable energy grids for charging electronic vehicles as well as designing a system for automatic wildlife detection through visual learning.

The deadline to apply is November 30; awards will be announced at the beginning of 2022.

Emami says that S2I plans to select a few key collaborators from industry to participate in its work as the center evolves. The collaboration with Rockley happened organically due to her longstanding relationship with the company and its close ties to the Institute. Rockley has long supported Emami’s efforts, and the Pasadena-based company counts several Caltech alumni among its ranks.

“Over the years, we have had a wonderful relationship with our Pasadena neighbors at Caltech, and it is an honor to continue our research agreement with them through the S2I Center,” said Andrew Rickman, chief executive officer and founder of Rockley Photonics. “Caltech has a strong history of supporting the development of health-related technologies. We are happy to be working with Caltech once again to push the boundaries of bioscience even further.”

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