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Professor to lead bid to help UK harness the power of sound and become an emerging technology global leader

Professor Sriram Subramanian has been named a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Chair in Emerging Technologies to develop novel acoustic interfaces.

A University of Sussex professor has been handed the task of making the UK a world-leader in technology which aims to harness the power of sound waves after being appointed to a prestigious new role. 

Professor Sriram Subramanian, Professor of Informatics at the University of Sussex, has been named a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Chair in Emerging Technologies to develop novel acoustic interfaces.       

Professor Subramanian said: “I am really excited to be awarded this chair position. This RAEng chair will help develop technology that will manipulate sound with the same ease and flexibility with which we manipulate light. This will enable many new applications and help establish UK as a world leader in this emerging technology field.”

RAEng will offer long-term support to the ten “engineering global-visionaries” to develop areas of emerging technology deemed to have the potential to bring significant economic and societal benefits to the UK.

Supported by the UK government’s National Productivity Investment Fund, 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 real deployment and commercialisation.

In recognition of the importance engineering will play in driving these areas of innovation, which also includes robotics, emerging space technologies and next-generation energy storage, the government has provided the Royal Academy of Engineering with a significant increase in funding to support the translation of research to application. The Academy has previously awarded only two of these prestigious Chairs, making single awards in 2009 and 2012.   

Professor Subramanian will be creating magical user experiences by creating 3D printed structures that shape and sculpt sound fields. One past example of his approach is the shaping of sound to create Ultrahaptics, the world’s leading haptic technology company. That technology uses ultrasound to create virtual buttons, switches and dials, as well as 3D shapes and virtual force fields, in mid-air.

As a RAEng chair, Professor Subramanian will develop technology that electronically controls a 3D-printed object to shape sound. This will have profound impact on consumer applications ranging from using sound to levitate objects in air to enabling new forms of wearable devices.

Professor Michael Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sussex, said: “This is fantastic recognition of Sri’s tireless and innovative research. Sri’s work is at the forefront of a very new and emerging technology and the future possibilities and potential are huge.

"As a university, we aim to give our academics the ability to experiment, push boundaries and collaborate, and Sri has used this opportunity to deliver ground-breaking and world-leading research time and time again.”

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “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.

"The ten researchers who have been appointed as Chairs in Emerging Technologies are global leaders in their fields, seeking to transform their pioneering ideas into fully commercialised technologies with important and widespread applications. 

“The UK has a rich history of championing disruptive technologies – from the development of the steam engine to the invention of optical fibre communications. Early stage technologies offer enormous potential for the UK to continue this legacy and it’s vital that we invest in both the technology, and the people behind it, to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”


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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Friday, 7 September 2018