MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: AnthroTronix–robot toolkit for rehabilitation

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Project ManagerCorinna LathanPrincipal InvestigatorCatherine Plaisant and Allison Druin, UMD
Location:  Silver Spring, Maryland – Montgomery County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/2001

Corinna E. Lathan, Board Chair and CEO, AnthroTronix Inc.

Business Description
AnthroTronix is a research and development (R&D) firm specializing in the development of advanced interface technology, product development for wearable computing and robotic control systems, and design, development, and testing of simulation tools for training applications. The company supplies its R&D services and advanced product development to commercial and government customers.

AnthroTronix was founded in July, 1999, by Corinna Lathan and Jack Maxwell Vice. In January, 2005, AnthroTronix launched a new brand, AT KidSystems Inc., which manufactures, markets, and distributes products emerging from AnthroTronix R&D projects.

Challenge
AnthroTronix wanted to integrate its expertise in gestural interfaces, which the company had been developing for video games, with the UMD Human Computer Interaction Laboratory’s storytelling robot to create a new robot for pediatric rehabilitation.

MIPS Role
AnthroTronix and HCIL staff jointly developed JesterBot, a therapeutic tool for children with speech, learning or physical disabilities. Through the product, wireless sensors were placed on a child’s body. JesterBot could then mimic a child’s movements. The idea was to make physical therapy fun.

Results
The MIPS research resulted in a patent, which AnthroTronix licensed from the University of Maryland. The next generation of JesterBot became CosmoBot, a robot that interacts with children with and without disabilities to promote educational and therapeutic activities. The current version, CosmoBot V3, was tested in a research study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and was used in physical therapy with children with disabilities through an NIH-funded project. CosmoBot has been tested with children with a range of abilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, neurodevelopmental disorders, and language developmental disorders. Funding sources have included the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Department of Education.

The CosmoBot character is also part of an assistive technology product developed by AnthroTronix, Cosmo’s Learning Systems, that includes the Mission Control input device and accompanying educational software.

AnthroTronix now employs 15 people and has generated over $20 million in revenues from research awards and contracts, from Lockheed Martin, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and NASA among others.

In 2010, Lathan was named one of “The 100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company. Her work with children with disabilities and robotics has been featured in Forbes, Time, and the New Yorker. It has also led to distinctions such as Maryland’s “Top Innovator of the Year” and MIT Technology Review Magazine’s “Top 100 World Innovators.” Lathan was named a Technology Pioneer and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and is currently on their Global Agenda Council for Robotics and Smart devices. She delivered a talk titled “Innovation, Empathy, and the Future of Human-Machine” at TEDxSwarthmore in May, 2012.

MIPS-Related Quote
“MIPS provided us with a great opportunity to work with cutting-edge researchers and was core to our ability to develop products for kids with disabilities.”
–Corinna Lathan Board Chair and CEO, AnthroTronix

Download the AnthroTronix spread from the upcoming book, “MIPS 25thAnniversary Commemorative Collection: Creating Partners in Innovation,” to be released at the MIPS 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 7.

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