2018 Winner: Outstanding Achievement in Technology sponsored by SAIT
Light sensor technology leads to a multitude of real-world applications
Dr. Orly Yadid-Pecht’s Wide Dynamic Range (WiDR) sensing chip is the first technology of its kind that permits sensors to function effectively, with high sensitivity, in extreme variations in light intensity. Unlike traditional sensors, WiDR chips can consistently and rapidly obtain real-time, high-resolution images of both dimly and brightly lit elements in fast moving scenes.
What problem did you see a need to solve and how did you solve this real-world problem?
I took a picture of my daughter when she was young. She was standing near the window and I wanted to see the details of what’s outside and her features—impossible; it’s hard to do. That was a trigger, how to solve this problem that manifests itself in many areas.
For example, if you have a spacecraft traveling from earth to the stars, seeing the sun and seeing the moon in different levels of light, you want to capture the details in the lit areas and in the dark areas. It is very hard. Or, you want to do an endoscopy, and you have your tools and a limited light source that creates shadows, but you need to see the details here and there to do your operation.
We’re currently working with our collaborators in machine vision and giving them a better opportunity to see flaws in the welding process. They use a very strong laser light but still you want to see details and different fractures in the metal. The Wide Dynamic Range (WiDR) technology manifests in different ways but there are challenges and issues to overcome. I hope we’ll be able to provide some solutions.
What has been the impact?
I’m happy that WiDR can solve problems for different applications.
I’m working with a collaborator in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, who is testing neurons for medication for Alzheimer’s and dementia. We used this technology to see the details of the neuron together with very strong light that excites and stimulates the neuron. That’s one place where you can see an impact.
Another is on security cameras when you want to see the details of a person, even if they’re in the shadow. Another application is in the biomedical field where currently we’re developing a gluten sensor, which will require wide dynamic range.
Has being in Alberta helped you find success?
I managed to set up a state-of-the-art lab in this area and we have been successful not just because of that support but also because we were able to find different collaborators and companies who are interested in working with us in these different areas.
I was fortunate to have the support here in Alberta, to get these people and the investment money for our lab and for the spinoff companies. It’s an excellent environment in Alberta and I’m happy about that.
Who have been your major supporters?
We must start with my students and former students who are now colleagues; they’re great supporters. Also, some of my other colleagues, including Dr. Naweed Syed from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Dr. Svetlana Yanushkevich working on biometric authentication at the University of Calgary.
Outside that support, I’ve worked with iCORE, Alberta Innovates and the Vice President of Research at the University of Calgary, all who helped me throughout the years and have been a great support.
We have also been fortunate to work with collaborators all around the world with different applications for the technology, working to solve real-world problems.
Alberta has put a large amount of investment in this lab and we want to see this as a focus of excellence to continue the work.
What are the plans for the future?
I’m happy with this recognition that brings a spotlight to our work and encourages us to continue developing new technologies for the wellbeing of people.
I started a new workshop to share my knowledge in entrepreneurship with women in science and technology. I believe women can relate to my example because I’m a mother, a wife, a researcher and an entrepreneur. I believe that in general women don’t take advantage of the opportunities available perhaps because integrating entrepreneurship into their busy lives with work and family seems like too much.
In the workshop, we cover different areas such as how to get help with building alliances, protecting our IP, researching it, and checking for market acceptance. I believe women can relate to my example and I very much hope to continue with this work.
How does it feel to be an ASTech Finalist?
It’s really nice. I feel honoured and privileged to be considered for this award and it gives me the strength to know that I do make a difference. That’s a good feeling but I hope that the focus will go to the team and to the work we do.