MIT Technology Review June 27 announced its 18th annual list of “Innovators Under 35,” with at least 10 Indian and South Asian technologists among the cohort.
The list, which honors exceptionally talented technologists whose innovations are poised to transform the world, is broken into five categories: inventors, entrepreneurs, visionaries, pioneers and humanitarians.
Among the group of eight inventors were Shreya Dave, Shinjini Kundu, and Manan Suri. Ashutosh Saxena was among the entrepreneurs group of eight. Among the visionaries were Archana Kamal, Shehar Bano and Prineha Narang. Humsa Venkatesh was named among the pioneers. No Indian Americans were selected in the humanitarians category.
Dave thought her doctorate research had no practical applications, MIT Technology Review wrote.
It involved molecular filtration membranes made of graphene oxide—which is cheaper and less prone to degrading than the polymers and ceramics used today—but her method was too expensive for the water industry, it said.
Then an article in Nature convinced her that the technique could save massive amounts of energy in the industrial processes used to separate chemicals for food, beverages, drugs, and fuel. These processes, it turns out, account for 12 percent of all U.S. energy consumption, it added.
Dave is now the CEO of Via Separations. The technology she and her team designed is meant to replace the current system for separating chemical compounds, which basically amounts to boiling. Dave believes that widespread adoption of Via’s filtration material could eliminate anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the energy used in such industrial processes.
Kundu created an artificial-intelligence system that can analyze them to find patterns undetectable to the naked eye. Her innovation could have a fundamental impact on the way we detect and treat diseases, the report said.
Kundu’s system allows humans to look through the eyes of the computer to discover otherwise imperceptible patterns that reveal the early disease process. She also trained the AI to pull out the disease markers from the images so that they can be seen on their own. That could help humans recognize them months or years before the onset of illness—so rather than just humans teaching AI, AI can teach us, it added.
Suri has built key elements of computer chips that mimic the learning ability and energy efficiency of the brain. And he did it by harnessing a quirk of next-generation memory technology, MIT Technology Review said.
That technology is known as emerging non-volatile memory. Because of peculiarities in their nanoscale physics, eNVM devices often behave in random ways, which in computers is usually a flaw. But Suri realized that this irregularity could help researchers build so-called neuromorphic chips, which emulate the neurons and synapses in our brains, it added.
Suri recognized that he could harness the inherent variability of eNVMs to build large-scale neuromorphic systems capable of doing supervised and unsupervised learning. He’s exploited that irregular behavior for cybersecurity and advanced sensing applications. Earlier this year he founded a startup, Cyran AI Solutions, to build neuromorphic and cybersecurity hardware based on his eNVM research, it went on.
Saxena is the CEO and cofounder of Brain of Things, which developed an AI system called Caspar that turns a home into a sort of robot that we can talk to and interact with. By later this summer, Caspar will have been installed in about 500 apartments in California and Tokyo, the Review said.
Each of these apartments is outfitted with around 100 devices including motion and humidity sensors, microphones, cameras, thermostats, and automated appliances. All of these feed data about residents’ behavior to Caspar, which uses a number of algorithms to analyze the data so that it gradually learns and adapts to people’s habits and preferences, it explained.
Bano made it possible to fight state censorship of the internet—by pioneering the first systematic study of how it happens. It all started when Bano’s homeland of Pakistan blocked YouTube in 2012, Technology Review noted.
So Bano probed three years of ISP data from Pakistan, and she experimented with ways to circumvent China’s Great Firewall. What she found was a variety of relatively basic technical restrictions, such as censors looking for any request to load a specific website and then sending signals to both the website’s servers and the surfer’s browser to end the request, it said.
As quantum computing starts to move from the lab to the factory, companies from Google to Intel are struggling to solve a tricky problem: how to faithfully steer the quantum information such systems spit out to traditional computers, the Technology Review said.
Kamal, an assistant professor at UMass Lowell, solved the problem, it said. Kamal demonstrated that quantum information could be steered and amplified for transmission before leaving the device where it was processed. Previously, the transmission required large magnets and complicated devices too big to fit on a single chip, leading to data latency and loss, a major impediment in scaling up current qubit systems, it noted.
Kamal’s innovation was to slightly alter the path of the transmission of light signals carrying information so as to shrink the components from the size of a quarter to a few micrometers, it said.
Prineha Narang seeks to build technologies by starting small: with the atom, according to the report.
As an assistant professor of computational materials science at Harvard, Narang studies the optical, thermal, and electronic behavior of materials at the nanoscale. Her research in how materials interact with light and other forms of electro-magnetic radiation could drive innovations in electronics, energy, and space technologies, it said.
Venkatesh’s research, at Stanford University, revealed how cancers hijack the activity of neural networks to fuel their own growth. Her discovery sparked a novel area of research targeting a type of activity seen in many different types of cancer. The results could lead to therapies that work against tumor cells in all their diversity, according to the report.
Her personal experience watching her uncle struggle with kidney cancer while she was a teenager made Venkatesh realize how little doctors understood the fundamental mechanisms of tumor growth.
So instead of becoming a doctor, as she’d originally hoped, she devoted herself to studying that, it said.
Now Venkatesh is harnessing tumors’ essentially parasitic behavior within their environment to develop drugs that might neutralize the way they exploit neural networks, it added.
The 35 innovators on this year's list include inventors, entrepreneurs, visionaries, humanitarians and pioneers in fields ranging from software and biotech to artificial intelligence and transportation. Honorees on this global list represent six countries: the United States, United Kingdom, China, Netherlands, India and Chile.