President's Report Masthead
December 31, 2012
Tech fund boosts Binghamton inventors

Ron Miles, who invented a tiny directional microphone that can help filter unwanted sounds for the hearing-impaired, hopes to bring his idea to the marketplace.

Tech fund boosts Binghamton inventors

Binghamton University researcher Ron Miles invented a tiny directional microphone — suitable for use in hearing aids — that filters out unwanted sounds. Now, with help from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund, he hopes to bring the idea to the marketplace.

Technology for the hearing-impaired is hardly perfect. The small microphones contained within hearing aids do a good job of boosting volume, but that can be a problem in a noisy restaurant as background sounds get boosted as much as your dinner date’s conversation. Miles used a tiny structure found in the ear of a fly, Ormia ochracea, as a model to develop the world’s smallest directional microphones.

His research received several million dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health nearly a decade ago, but that money was focused on scientific discovery and not on the development of a commercial product. Last year, the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF) supported development of the technology with $50,000 from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF). Now, Miles has earned an additional $100,000 from the fund to develop his microphone in a market-strategic way. Binghamton University will match that $100,000, providing additional resources to advance this research.

“Dr. Miles’ work is a perfect example of the real-world impact of SUNY research,” says Timothy Killeen, president of the RF and SUNY vice chancellor for research. “Ground-breaking research is being conducted by SUNY faculty and students across New York State. Our job is to provide the support that facilitates the advancement of invention to produce commercially viable technologies that serve the public good and trigger entrepreneurial and economic opportunity.”

The TAF also announced first-round funding for six new projects. Binghamton bioengineer Kenneth McLeod had one of the winning proposals, with a plan to develop a personalized heating system that is designed to save energy while allowing people to manage their weight by maintaining a consistent body heat balance.