U of T team hacking health care in a refugee camp

They hadn’t even been at the refugee camp a whole day when the first of only two power adapters blew up.

Researchers Ryan Fobel, his brother Christian Fobel, Alphonsus Ng and Julian Lamanna had been feverishly working toward this day for months. They’d pulled all-nighters, designed, redesigned and debugged circuits, mixed reagents and buffers, put out literal fires, built their portable lab, taken it apart and built it again. They and their lab mates were still making changes the night before boarding the plane.

The Agency fosters social innovation at U of T

University of Toronto graduate student Tricia Jose is helping Canadians learn to save money so they can reduce financial vulnerability.

Vicis, the financial technology company she founded with U of T students David St. Bernard and Christopher Villegas-Cho, has its roots in the social innovation movement.

“Social innovation means you’re making an impact beyond the bottom line,” says Jose, who is studying biomedical engineering.

“The really exciting thing is that our generation is really focused on impact and brands with purpose. More and more people want to give back. They want to do things that serve a greater purpose.”

GM Canada president: “The tree of artificial intelligence was planted in Toronto”

The automotive industry is going through a period of profound disruption – the most since the car replaced the horse – but Canadian universities like the University of Toronto have what’s needed to help automakers leapfrog ahead of the competition, says the head of GM Canada.

That’s what drew Steve Carlisle, president and managing director of General Motors Canada, and his team on Tuesday to U of T’s downtown Toronto campus where they met some of the University’s world-leading researchers involved in artificial intelligence, deep learning, robotics and systems control.

U of T startup Nanoleaf moves light beyond the bulb with Aurora modular smart panels

aurora6For over 100 years lighting options for consumers have largely remained the same.

Now, U of T startup Nanoleaf is changing the way we look at light.

“We’re moving people away from that old way of thinking where light comes out of a bulb, a single point and source,” said Gimmy Chu, U of T engineering alumni and co-founder of Nanoleaf.

Their newly launched product, the Aurora, is the first ever modular smart lighting kit with panels that can be assembled in a variety of different shapes and can emit an endless spectrum of vibrant colours.

“We wanted to create a product where you can put something up on your ceiling or your wall and that entire surface is filled with light. You don’t necessarily know where that light’s coming from, it’s just very gentle and comforting.”

Inspired by nature’s greatest light show, the Aurora Borealis, the product aims to enhance the everyday lives of their customers by recreating the soft and ambient lighting that we experience in the outdoors.

“The whole concept of light animation is sort of like music for your eyes,” said Chu.

“I think the closest thing to that is watching sunsets as the colours move and change. If we can recreate the sky inside then I can’t imagine how light can get any better than that.”

However the triangular LED-light panels are assembled in the physical world, they will also be mirrored on the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app that lets the user choose their lighting effects and even schedule time triggers for the Aurora to turn on or off remotely.

“If you’d like to wake up to the sunrise you could create a lighting animation that looks like the sunrise and every morning, say at 8 am, even on the darkest winter mornings you could have the sunrise in your room.”

While completely customizable, the Aurora will also come with four lighting presets: a romantic setting featuring red and pink hues; disco party with alternating colours at varying speeds; waves, with light and dark blues floating across the panels; and Northern Lights, a nod to the startup’s Canadian roots.

No longer just a means to an end, lighting can now be a design statement, an environmentally friendly choice, or, with the help of Nanoleaf, both.

All Nanoleaf’s products, including their Smarter Series and their dimmable bulbs that work without a dimmer are energy efficient and sustainable tech. The Aurora’s LED panels provide up to 25,000 hours of light, compared to a traditional incandescent bulb’s lifespan of approximately 1,200 hours.

The Aurora is now available for sale online or in person at 300 Best Buys across Canada and the United States. The nine-panel starter pack retails at $199, with three to 30 panel expansion packs available for purchase. They are compatible with Apple HomeKit, Android and Amazon Alexa.

U of T researcher receives the Mitacs Award for outstanding innovation

As a protein engineer, Wei Zhang gives old molecules new tricks. And now, he’s transformed a single human protein into a virus-crushing arsenal that could lead to long-sought treatments for deadly infections.

On Tuesday, Zhang received the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation for his work on creating molecular antidotes against viruses that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (Congo Fever). His patent-pending research was crucial to the launch of a new Toronto-based company called Ubiquitech, which will further commercialize his work so it can be used in a clinical setting.

Google Doodle celebrates U of T’s Sir Frederick Banting and the discovery of insulin

Today’s Google homepage Doodle celebrates the legacy of one of U of T’s most renowned researchers Sir Frederick Banting.

The Nov. 14 Doodle commemorates World Diabetes Day and what would have been Banting’s 125th birthday. Banting was a physician who along with Charles Best discovered insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921, forever changing the way people live with diabetes. Banting was also a Canadian soldier in the First World War.

U of T Magazine published a story in 2014, detailing Banting’s experience in the war and the discovery of insulin when he returned home.

Tech jobs are booming in Toronto: U of T’s Innovation Policy Lab collaborates on startup report

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, changing the way we work, play and communicate.

It’s also a growing share of our economy – especially here in Toronto – where tech jobs are a hot commodity in every sector from banking to health care.

A new report published by TechTO, an organization that supports startup firms in Toronto, explores the ways to support and strengthen technology-driven jobs in the Toronto area.

The Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs collaborated with consulting firm PWC and economic data modelling firm Emsi on the report.

Tech jobs are booming in Toronto: U of T’s Innovation Policy Lab collaborates on startup report

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, changing the way we work, play and communicate.

It’s also a growing share of our economy – especially here in Toronto – where tech jobs are a hot commodity in every sector from banking to health care.

A new report published by TechTO, an organization that supports startup firms in Toronto, explores the ways to support and strengthen technology-driven jobs in the Toronto area.

The Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs collaborated with consulting firm PWC and economic data modelling firm Emsi on the report.

Artificial intelligence research and startups at U of T get boost from RBC

Canada’s largest bank is bolstering artificial intelligence and machine learning research at the University of Toronto – and startups launched by students and faculty.

A new agreement between RBC and U of T sees the global giant join forces with Rotman School of Management’s Creative Destruction Lab, one of 10 campus-led accelerators at U of T, supporting the entrepreneurial aspirations of students from idea to intellectual property.

The bank has been named a founding partner of the machine learning initiative at the lab, and its donation will support programming to help attract and develop even more startups in this booming and ever-expanding field. Already, the Creative Destruction Lab is home to 50 artificial intelligence companies.