VisiSonics’ RealSpace 3D Audio Software Licensed by Oculus for Virtual Reality

Image Courtesy: Sergey Galyonkin (

Image Courtesy: Sergey Galyonkin (

Oculus announced the deal at Oculus Connect, the company’s first developer conference, in Los Angeles, Calif.

RealSpace™ 3D Audio enables the virtual placement of sound anywhere in a 3D space with pinpoint accuracy, creating the perception of real source direction, distance, depth, and movement relative to a listener when heard through standard stereo headphones. It re-creates the auditory ambience of an environment, creating a completely immersive audio experience.

“Audio is an essential ingredient for immersive virtual reality,” said Brendan Iribe, CEO at Oculus. “The technology that the VisiSonics team has developed is a great start towards developing a fully-featured VR audio solution, and we’re incredibly excited to be licensing their work to drive VR forward.”

Based on ten years of research at the University of Maryland, RealSpace™ 3D Audio models the transformations sound undergoes as it travels from a source to a listener’s ears in an environment, using a combination of head-related transfer functions, room models and head-tracking, as well as their interplay.

“We are excited to see our RealSpace engine technology as part of the future of Oculus’ virtual reality systems,” said VisiSonics Founder and President Ramani Duraiswami. “We believe we are at a threshold for physics-based personal audio rendering in virtual reality. Oculus’ innovative technology is poised to catalyze the industry, and we are incredibly happy to play a role in this.”

RealSpace™ 3D Audio technology demos are available today at

VisiSonics is an Mtech Technology Advancement Program incubator company, Maryland Industrial Partnerships grant winner, and a previous finalist for the University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition.

UMD Alumni Hatch Sub-$300 Consumer 3D Printer, Raise $3.3 Million on Kickstarter

The Micro 1

Two University of Maryland graduates have designed The Micro, a consumer-friendly, sub-$300 3D printer, and are quickly staging one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all-time to produce it, hauling in $3.3 million with more than 10,000 backers.

The Micro raced past its $50,000 goal in just 11 minutes and hit the $1 million mark in 25 hours, faster than the Pebble watch, which took 28 hours.

Now, with less than 24 hours to go in a 30-day campaign, this is the last chance to order from the first batch of The Micro 3D printers on Kickstarter, a Web-based funding platform for creative projects.

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a computer-generated digital model.

“A 3D printer is a magical box that creates things,” said Michael Armani (B.S., mechanical engineering, 2005 and Ph.D., bioengineering, 2010), co-founder ofM3D, the company he launched with David Jones (B.S., computer science, 2006). “It’s that simple. There is nothing on your desk one second, and the next you have it.”

The Micro 2

Weighing just two pounds, medium watermelon-sized and box-shaped, The Micro can be used to create anything from custom jewellery, cookie cutters, everyday objects around the house, and even real engineering and artistic prototypes, according to the company. Much like a paper printer, The Micro attaches to a computer, through which users download or create models using M3D’s software, which company officials say is as interactive and enjoyable as playing a game. Once a model is selected, users hit print and the object is made.

“Starting with a seamless design, we created the Micro by preserving the best features of existing printers and redesigning everything else,” said Jones. “What’s more, we kept the cost of The Micro low by ensuring that it’s both space and power efficient, using as much power as a tablet would use. We are excited to be a part of the 3D printing revolution, and hope that The Micro will play its part in changing the way people build, innovate and create.”

Not only did Armani, Jones and the M3D team, which includes four others with UMD affiliations, create the most affordable 3D printer, they also claim 15 additional innovations over current models:

  1. Most space-efficient 3D printer ever made
  2. Lightweight, portable design fits nicely on a desk
  3. Micro motion chip provides completely automatic leveling and calibration
  4. Most quiet 3D printer ever made
  5. Lowest power consumption 3D printer ever made
  6. Carbon fiber rods: light, sturdy, self-lubricating and long-lasting
  7. Ceramic heater for rapid heat-up, power efficiency, reliability and safety
  8. Available in bold colors: silver, black, blue, red, orange and green
  9. New filament materials like Chameleon PLA.
  10. Inspirational Micro filament spools
  11. Modernized touch-capable software
  12. Replaceable print beds for alternative materials
  13. Replaceable nozzles for experimenters
  14. Designed for fast assembly in the U.S. for quality control
  15. An ABS-based print bed allows you to print larger ABS parts.

The Micro is powered by what the company collectively calls Micro Motion Technology™, a series of next generation innovations that together create precision at a fraction of the cost.

M3D plans to assemble its printers in the U.S. and is seeking manufacturing space in Montgomery County, Md. The company is based in Bethesda.
Armani and Jones met at UMD in 2002 while auditing a biology class that neither of them needed to graduate. Their friendship has grown ever since.

A serial entrepreneur, Armani won $5,000 in Mtech’s UMD $75K Business Plan Competition in 2010 for CloudSolar, a company he launched to develop solar energy technologies.

Additional UMD-affiliated M3D team members include: Danny Lee (B.S., 1989), Su Lee (economics, 2011), Aliaksandr Mamonau (electrical and computer engineering and computer science, expected fall 2015), and Syed Rahman (mechanical engineering, expected 2015).

High-resolution screenshots, logos and headshots are available here. For more information, please visit The Micro’s website here and M3D’s website here.

UMD Business Model Challenge Winner Launches First Crowdfunding Campaign, Raises $10,000 in One Week

Shield Boards LLC Set to Raise $25,000 Through Kickstarter to Help Fund the Mass Production of Wheel Shields

By Elena Sten

Chase Kaczmarek, a senior at the University of Maryland and founder of Shield Boards LLC, launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 5 to fund production of his company’s product, Wheel Shields, which eliminates a safety problem called “wheel bite” in skateboarding and longboarding. In just one week on Kickstarter, the company raised over $10,000.

This year’s first-place and $8,000 winner in the 2013 University of Maryland Business Model Challenge, Shield Boards LLC is hoping to raise $25,000 by September 4 to purchase a die cast mold needed to mass-produce and market the company’s injury-reducing skate and longboard accessory, Wheel Shields.

Wheel Shields are rounded covers for skateboard or longboard wheels intended to eliminate the problem of “wheel bite.” This phenomenon occurs during a hard turn when the bottom of the board comes in contact with the top of the wheels, causing the wheels to stop abruptly. This sudden change in speed throws riders to the ground, increasing their risk of injury.

Wheel Shields

Wheel Shields

After suffering from the effects of wheel bite a year ago, Kaczmarek set forth to develop a solution to the seemingly unavoidable problem.

“After experiencing wheel bite first-hand, I was surprised to find that there were no solutions for this problem on the market,” said Kaczmarek. “I began brainstorming ideas to eliminate wheel bite and improve the overall safety of skaters world-wide.”

One year and 20 prototypes later, Wheel Shields are coming to fruition. The patented technology is made from aircraft aluminum, an extremely durable material, and is compatible with most longboard or skateboard wheels under 75mm. A set of four shields weighs less than one pound.

Wheel Shields also provide splash protection when riding through wet terrain and open up new trick possibilities by letting skaters stand directly over their wheels. The newest prototype also covers less than half of the wheel, which reduces the likelihood of rocks getting caught inside and jamming wheels while riding.

WS Benefits

Shield Boards LLC also won first place at UMD’s Pitch Dingman Competition in February 2013, and was voted “coolest booth” at the University’s Cupid’s Cup Business and Innovation Showcase in April, sponsored by Under Armor Founder and CEO Kevin Plank.

For more information on Wheel Shields, or to help fund the company’s campaign, please visit

Led and managed by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), a unit of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, the UMD Business Model Challenge encourages students, faculty, researchers, staff and recent alumni at UMD and University of Maryland, Baltimore to leverage their talent and ideas to create tomorrow’s leading companies. The competition process, its mentors, partners and cash prizes have helped many students, faculty and researchers build their own companies.

UMD’s Mtech Pronounces: Business Plan Pitches Are Dead

UMD students working with a business model canvas

The six student and faculty finalist teams in the new University of Maryland Business Model Challenge won’t be writing business plans or making investor pitches.

Instead, they are assessing the product/market fit of their technologies by talking to prospective customers—lots of customers. The teams then integrate this real-world feedback into their business models, dramatically increasing their value to customers.

It’s hard, frustrating, work but immensely productive and rewarding. What’s more, they are mentored by the university’s Mtech Ventures team in their customer discovery efforts and given money to travel to customer sites and conduct the necessary interviews.

Finalist teams will have interviewed a minimum of 25 potential customers.

UMD students working with a business model canvas

At the final presentations on Friday, April 26, the team that makes the most progress and displays the most ingenuity in integrating their findings into their business model will be awarded additional funding to continue their work and expand their product validation interviews.

“Business plans have their place, just not at the startup phase,” said Craig Dye, Director of Mtech’s Venture Programs. “The overarching purpose of this approach is to find a repeatable, scalable business model based upon customer feedback. We’re excited to be able to provide UMD students and faculty the opportunity to take their new ventures through a proven process that puts them on a more stable path to success.”

Eleven teams, divided into Beginning/Intermediate and Advanced categories, were invited to participate in the Business Model Challenge process from a pool of 44 initial applicants. Up to six teams will present what they learned during the customer development and business model workshop to a panel of judges at the competition finals, held at the University of Maryland on Friday, April 26, from 1-3:30 p.m., in room 1115 of the Computer Science Instructional Center. The event is open to the public (register here).

Beginning/Intermediate level teams include:

  • CellTrace: developing an automated data extraction software program designed for researchers in the life sciences.
    Team: Deborah Hemingway, graduate student, biophysics; Frank Hemingway, graduate student, electrical and computer engineering; Joshua Juen, graduate student, University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, electrical and computer engineering; and Kimberly Stroka, Johns-Hopkins University, post-doc, bioengineering.
  • Destinalo: developing an online booking platform dedicated exclusively to offering accommodations in environmentally friendly hotels.
    Team: Cristina Huidobro, graduate student, urban planning.
  • MotionVibe: developing fitness lifestyle technology solutions that improve training, motivation, and communication between professionals and enthusiasts.
    Team: Nick Gerontianos, student, digital innovation management studies.
  • Proteus: developing 3-D filament recycling solutions that allow users to convert waste plastic and plastic pellets into usable filament for 3-D printers.
    Team (all mechanical engineering undergraduates): Ethan Nusbaum, J. Scott Wheeler, and Kelly Kempf.
  • UMDTutor2Go: developing an online system to provide students with private, online tutoring via Skype, live instant messaging chats and audio broadcasts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    Team: Chandra Smith, undergraduate student, psychology, human development, and technology entrepreneurship; Changudra Smith, undergraduate student, finance, marketing, and technology entrepreneurship.
  • Wheel Shields: developing a skateboarding accessory that solves “wheel bite” (a dangerous safety problem), keeps riders dry and allows riders to stand over their wheels.
    Team: Chase Kaczmarek, undergraduate student, management and entrepreneurship.

Advanced Level Teams include:

  • Kitsune: developing a dynamic enterprise software-updating framework that eliminates downtime and keeps vital services accessible.
    Team: Edward Smith, undergraduate student, computer science; Michael Hicks, Associate Professor, computer science; Jeffrey Foster, Associate Professor, computer science.
  • Maryland Energy and Sensor Technologies (MEST): developing a novel, solid-state cooling technology for air-conditioning, dehumidification, and refrigeration applications.
    Team: Ichiro Takeuchi, Professor, materials science and engineering; Yiming Wu, Research Associate, materials science and engineering.
  • Secure Mobile Devices: developing a technology that strengthens the security of mobile devices by combining physical layer technologies with user biological traits and cyber technologies.
    Team: John Baras, Professor, electrical and computer engineering and Institute for Systems Research; Vladimir Ivanov, Research Associate, Institute for Systems Research.
  • Tauros Engineering: developing a technology for the detection and monitoring of bridge scour.
    Team: Alison Flatau, Professor, aerospace engineering, Associate Dean for Research, Clark School of Engineering; Tyler Flatau, undergraduate student, government and politics; and Adrian Ross, MBA candidate, Harvard Business School.
  • Vasoptic Medical: developing a medical device for the early diagnosis and management of diabetic retinopathy and other medical conditions.
    Team: M. Jason Brooke, alumnus, University of Maryland and University of Maryland, Baltimore; Abhishek Rege, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University.

UMD students working with a business model canvas

The University of Maryland Business Model Challenge, managed by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), a unit of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, encourages students, faculty, researchers, staff and recent alumni at UMD and University of Maryland, Baltimore to leverage their talent and ideas to create tomorrow’s leading companies. The competition process, its mentors, partners and cash prizes have helped many students, faculty and researchers build their own companies.

Now in its thirteenth year with a new format, the competition was formerly called the University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition. Historically, the competition has spurred the commercialization of university technologies and served as a launch pad for multi-million-dollar companies, including AnthroTronix, RioRey, Alertus Technologies, Squarespace and Lurn.

Sponsors of the 2013 competition include Fish & Richardson P.C.Lockheed Martin, and Nixon Peabody LLP.

For more information about the University of Maryland Business Model Challenge and the finals event, visit

UMD students working with a business model canvas