Biotia, a Runway Startup at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, is leveraging genomics and AI to provide hospitals with diagnostic insights to fight infectious disease.

Nanit, a Runway Startup at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, created a baby monitor that uses computer vision and AI to provide parents with guidance to help their children sleep better.

Raye Schiller, Master of Engineering in Computer Science ’20, graduated from Macaulay Honors at CUNY Hunter College with a degree in Emerging Media and minors in Computer Science and Gender Studies. She worked as a software engineer at JPMorgan Chase for two years before attending Cornell Tech. Raye is a WiTNY fellow where she advocates for the inclusion of all people in technology.

What is your favorite class this semester?

My favorite class is Networks and Markets with Rafael Pass because I get to combine interesting topics from sociology, economics, and computer science. It’s fascinating to learn things like the basis for algorithms of matching uber riders to drivers or pricing for Google ads. Rafael’s passion and excitement for the topic are infectious and it makes the class even more inspiring and interesting.

What excites you most about your program?

The fact that I get to dive headfirst into really deep technical topics while also learning entrepreneurship and leadership through the business and studio courses. I am also really excited about Startup Studio where I get to be part of a team that builds a startup from the ground up in a safe and supportive environment.

Why did you choose Cornell Tech?

It’s rare that you get to spend time to invest in your education, and especially rare that you get to do it in such an innovative and exciting place like Cornell Tech. When I walk around campus, I can feel the importance of this institution on a daily basis and I know how much the school really wants to set up its students for success.

What has surprised you most about Cornell Tech?

How much the connections I’ve made here have been instrumental in developing my technical and leadership skills. The people that I’ve met have been so inspiring and intelligent, and it’s incredible to be able to consistently connect and work with such accomplished people.

What’s the most interesting use of technology you’ve seen lately?

The New York Times does some really great data visualization work regarding important political topics. One that I’ve seen recently that’s really great is called The Twitter Presidency.

What is one of your favorite things to do on the weekend in NYC?

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge or spend a day lounging in Prospect Park after going to brunch with friends.

What role do you believe interdisciplinary teamwork plays in building digital products?

Technology is so immersed in every part of our lives these days. If we want to build useful products for everyone, we need to have truly diverse groups of people thinking about how to solve problems. Cornell Tech is a place where everyone’s unique experience is valued because we know that the best products are built from people of all different backgrounds. I know that these interdisciplinary skills will enable me to graduate as a well-rounded digital leader.

You were involved in WiTNY at CUNY and now here at Cornell Tech. What was your experience with WiTNY at CUNY (courses, internships, etc.)?

I got introduced to WiTNY when I was a sophomore at Hunter College. They were running an Introduction to Programming course in Python that was specifically meant to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. I had taken a computer science class before, but that was the first time I felt like I could really do well in the technology industry. I also applied through WiTNY to be a software development summer intern at AOL and got to build an Android TV application with two other WiTNY interns. That was a turning point for me because I was actually coding all day every day and although it was very challenging, I started to build up the confidence I needed to pursue programming as a full-time career.

What does it mean to be a WiTNY fellow at Cornell Tech?

As a WiTNY fellow at Cornell Tech, I help think about and organize programming that fosters an inclusive environment for everyone on campus. Something that we’ve done this semester is a ‘Coding Interview Prep’ workshop, where student-led groups worked together to solve algorithm and data structure problems. Other past events have been negotiations workshops and the Ambient Belonging Project.

Why are initiatives like WiTNY important for the tech industry?

Technology is slowly but surely becoming a part of every single aspect of our lives. If we want to live in a society that is equitable and inclusive, we need to make sure that everyone is a part of building the technology that will shape our future.

Pargol Gheissari, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Dual MS Degrees — Health Tech Concentration ‘20 and recipient of the Abby Joseph Cohen Scholarship, received her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Imperial College London. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she began her career in biotechnology as a Research Associate at Illumina in San Francisco where she worked on developing new methods to accelerate and enhance DNA sequencing instruments.

What is your favorite class this semester? Why?

Privacy and Security in the Wild. This class has definitely made me more aware about the possible threats that can be faced day-to-day. It is also very interesting to see how the internet works. 

What excites you most about your program? 

Being able to work in an interdisciplinary environment is what I like most about the program. Furthermore, it is exciting to be able to apply what I learn in class to real world problems, especially in the field of healthcare. 

How do you describe Health Tech to your friends and family?

I describe my program as an Information Sciences program that focuses on using technology in the field of healthcare. 

Why did you choose the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech?

My goal in pursuing graduate studies was to achieve the skills needed to create new digital technologies for assisting patients and clinicians. I strongly believe that having a deep connection between entrepreneurship and engineering is essential in promoting new technologies and therapies. Cornell Tech’s unique location in New York and its connection to the business community creates the opportunity to have valuable hands-on experiences and allows to take advantage of the mentorship and expertise of this extraordinary community. Specifically, unique programs, such as Product Studio and Startup Studio, provide the opportunity to grow ideas and to cultivate a collaborative community in real-world product development. 

What has surprised you most about Cornell Tech?

What surprised me the most was how responsive all faculty members are and how feedback the students give is taken into account and changes are implemented immediately. It is great to see how this community has grown and developed over the past year. 

What’s the most interesting use of technology you’ve seen lately?

The use of a machine learning algorithm called meta-learning in detecting skin abnormalities from a small number of data points. 

What is one of your favorite things to do on the weekend in NYC?

Exploring different neighborhoods and restaurants, visiting exhibits and going to shows. 

In what way do you hope your work might affect others and society at large? 

Moving from Iran to the UK and then to the United States truly deepened my appreciation of having access to medical resources. Witnessing costly medical procedures here in the United States motivated me to find solutions in resource constrained settings. I aspire to pursue a career in health care through developing innovative technologies for clinical applications. I hope to influence the next great technological revolution and to tackle healthcare challenges in a creative manner.

Whether it be a request to Alexa for a weather report in the morning or for Siri to help track down a recipe, millions of people use voice-control technologies to navigate their daily lives. A report by eMarketer has estimated that this year, 111.8 million people in the US will use a voice assistant at least monthly, while UK-based Juniper Research has forecasted that 8 billion digital voice assistants will be in use globally by 2023. Speech is rapidly replacing screen tapping as the preferred way to communicate with devices.

A Cornell Tech alumni startup has developed a conversational AI platform called Hyro (formerly Airbud) that lets organizations easily add natural, two-way conversational capabilities to their websites, apps, and other digital channels. The plug-and-play solution takes a new approach to online conversations.

Hyro was incorporated in June 2018. Today it has an 11-strong team working across R&D, sales, marketing, and product in the US and Israel. The team has recently secured $4 million in seed money investments led by Hanaco Ventures with participation from Spider Capital and ERA

Israel Krush, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’18 and Hyro co-founder and CEO, came to New York City to build his business and entrepreneurial skills following a 12-year technology career with the Israeli Defense Forces, Intel, and a series of startups. At Cornell Tech, he met co-founder, Rom Cohen, Master of Engineering in Computer Science ’18. 

Recognizing a rise in the popularity of voice assistants, Krush and Cohen teamed up in Startup Studio and began researching the voice space. 

Hyro co-founders from left to right: Rom Cohen, Master of Engineering in Computer Science ’18, Israel Krush, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’18, and Uri Valevski.

Tech giants are encouraging consumers to use smart speakers, said Krush, but many use cases, such as playing a song or setting an alarm, are too simplistic. “We thought about more complex scenarios and looked at verticals where we feel that there is friction in terms of finding information,” Krush said.

The pair focused on websites that users visit out of necessity rather than enjoyment or entertainment, such as those in the healthcare sector. “You’re not visiting a hospital website for fun, you do it because you need to find a physician or make an appointment.” People can get lost looking for information, he said, and often end up having to call a live representative. 

Hyro decided to simplify this interaction, “You should be able to find a physician by simply typing or saying, ‘I’m looking for a cardiologist who speaks Spanish on the Upper East Side,’” said Krush.

A New Approach to Chat

Krush and Cohen found that existing chatbots and voice assistant solutions tend to be based on predefined conversational flows, i.e. if the user says X, reply with Y. This means organizations need to anticipate the questions a person might ask. Hyro simplifies this process with two major innovations, first by using existing data, scraped from the organization’s website, to create a comprehensive knowledge graph. “Technologically speaking, we are able to deploy an AI assistant without any training data,” said Krush. “If the information is on the website, the user will get an answer from us.” 

The second takes an approach that is linguistics-based, rather than machine-learning orientated. This means that when a user asks Hyro a question, their natural speech is parsed and broken down, said Krush. “Once we parse the sentence and understand the different components, we are able to traverse the knowledge graph, retrieve the relevant information and ask follow-up questions”.

Further actions, such as booking appointments, can then be carried out.

Beyond Healthcare 

In June 2018, Hyro, now joined by third co-founder Uri Valevski, a Natural Language Understanding expert with experience on the Google Search and Duplex teams⁠, was accepted into Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA). ERA made an initial investment of  $100,000 and the team worked out of Cornell Tech’s on-campus co-working space. The combined support allowed the team to develop their Proof-of-Concept (POC) and work on a pilot with Weill Cornell Medicine. The pilot demonstrated how Hyro could be successfully deployed on a website containing data on over 1,500 physicians.

The $4 million funding injection will allow the team to deploy Hyro on other platforms, such as Alexa devices and Facebook Messenger, and to build design partnerships in new verticals — perhaps travel, finance, or education, said Krush. “We’re vertical agnostic. In each information-heavy use case, where people need to be on a website versus want to be on a website — that’s our ideal landing spot, and that’s where you’ll find us.”

Noah Snavely, Associate Professor at Cornell Tech and in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University, recently received the International Conference on Computer Vision’s (ICCV) 2019 Helmholtz Prize for the 2009 paper, Building Rome in a Day.

The Helmholtz Prize is an award given bi-annually by the Technical Committee on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (TCPAMI) at the ICCV for fundamental contributions in Computer Vision. The award recognizes ICCV papers from ten years ago with a significant impact on computer vision research.

In the paper, Snavely and his co-authors presented a system that could match and reconstruct 3D scenes from large collections of photographs on Internet photo-sharing sites. The system used a collection of parallel distributed matching and reconstruction algorithms, and demonstrated that it is possible to reconstruct cities consisting of 150K images in less than a day.

Building Rome in a Day

Authors: Sameer Agarwal, Noah Snavely, Ian Simon, Steven M. Seitz, and Richard Szeliski

International Conference on Computer Vision, 2009.

EINO, a Runway Startup at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, boosts mobile network performance by forecasting information on capacity demand and providing proactive optimization actions. EINO’s proprietary technology uses the power of Big Data and AI to provide predictive contextual intelligence on mass human movement/activity and network optimization techniques.

Learn more about EINO in this Q&A with co-founder and CEO Payman Samadi.

What does your company do?

EINO is an end-to-end AI platform that improves long-term capacity planning and capital prioritization for mobile telecom networks. The tool helps operators accurately forecast network quality, understand the contextual demographics of individual cell coverage, and determine upgrades based on a desired strategy. We currently have agreements with Tier-1 mobile operators in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

How has the Runway program helped you to develop your company?

Runway was our first investor and gave us the opportunity (a runway, if you will) to find the right product market fit, build relationships with customers, find the right advisors and mentors, and get ready for the next round of fundraising.

What impact do you hope your company will have in the industry/world?

Mobile operators spend $350B annually on capital improvements, and with 5G networks on the horizon, there will be even more capital spent. All of this aims to improve the connectivity of people and devices. We hope to contribute to this process by increasing the efficiency of connectivity — avoiding low quality service and over-spending by telecom companies. Furthermore, with accurate forecasting, the energy efficiency of each network is improved.

Where did you earn your PhD and what was your research focus?

I received my Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I was also a research scientist in the Columbia University engineering department. My focus has been on network demand forecasting and optimization using big data and artificial intelligence.

Why did you want to commercialize that research? What was the inspiration behind your company?

EINO’s core technology is inspired by my research for the past 10 years. I am obsessed with improving efficiency through reducing waste. EINO can make people better connected by creating more economical and energy efficient networks. We want to make sure that network equipment is installed where it is needed the most, a process that is achieved by granular, high-resolution, long-term forecasts monitoring (and mirroring) the evolution of networks and cities. 

Why did you apply to the Runway program?

Starting a deep-tech company is quite challenging, especially as a first-time entrepreneur. You need help with funding, mentorship, and building your network. A friend recommended Runway, and I set up a meeting with one of the founders of the program. After each meeting, I felt that this was the right place and these were the right people to work with, and I’m quite grateful to be a member of the Runway program.

What has been the biggest challenge switching your mindset from a researcher/academic to an entrepreneur?

My main challenge has been taking my attention off of solving the problem and putting more emphasis on getting the solution out there. We have the answer: we are building out our product and provide a subscription service to our customers. But it is an entirely different mindset!

Cornell Tech’s K-12 Education Initiative works with NYC Public Schools to bring computer science to all.

Part business school. Part research institution. Part startup incubator. The Runway Startup Postdoc Program at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute helps recently graduated PhDs transition from academics to entrepreneurs.