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Music to Our Ears: Buttons of Sound among Emerging Tech Backed by Royal Academy

Bioelectronic therapies for damaged central nervous systems and improved safety in robotics and AI also among research backed by the Royal Academy of Engineering today.

By April Slattery

Picture virtual buttons in the air, sculpted from sound.

Developing these will be among the tasks of University of Sussex Professor Sriram Subramanian of Informatics, who was this week named a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Chair in Emerging Technologies.

The appointment comes as the RAEng announces long-term support to ten “engineering global-visionaries” to develop areas of emerging technology deemed likely to bring significant economic and societal benefits to the UK.

The Academy is committing £1.3 million to each of the ten-year programmes, which will enable engineers to focus on advancing the novel technologies from basic research, through to deployment and commercialisation.

Professor Subramanian said: “This RAEng chair will help develop technology that will manipulate sound with the same ease and flexibility with which we manipulate light.”

His team will be working to create unique user experiences using 3D printed structures that help shape and sculpt sound fields, as well as developing technology that electronically controls a 3D-printed object to shape sound.

Professor Subramanian is co-founder of Ultrahaptics, which uses ultrasound to create virtual buttons, switches and dials, as well as virtual force fields, in mid-air.

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Ten Chairs 

“Emerging technologies offer enormous opportunities for the UK, both economically and socially, but often their potential is not widely recognised until it is championed by a visionary individual,”  Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said in a release.

The other nine Chairs in Emerging Technology include:

– Professor Ana Cavalcanti, University of York – Software Engineering for Robotics: modelling, validation, simulation, and testing

– Professor Timothy Denison, University of Oxford – Brain engineering: towards closed-loop, non-invasive bioelectronic therapies for neurological disorders

– Professor Brian Gerardot, Heriot-Watt University – Integrated two-dimensional classical and quantum photonics

– Professor Alessio Lomuscio, Imperial College London – Trusted learning-based autonomous and robotic systems

– Professor Colin McInnes MBE FREng FRSE, University of Glasgow – Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies: Space

– Professor Jason Reese FREng FRSE, University of Edinburgh – PYRAMID: a platform for multiscale design, from molecules to machines

– Professor Susan Rosser, University of Edinburgh – Engineered cells for combined diagnostics and therapeutics

– Professor Jonathan Rossiter, University of Bristol – Smart materials and mechanisms for ubiquitous soft robotics

– Professor Paul Shearing, UCL – Emerging Battery Technologies for Next Generation Energy Storage


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