Skip to main content

Spring 2017

When research is done — or almost ready for the road — it’s time to take products for a ride around the test track. Every year, West Virginia University faculty, students and alumni are making ideas that could become commonplace and change the status quo. Here’s a quick look at a few.
SyglassMariah Dawson, BS ’16, laboratory manager in George Spirou’s neuroscience lab, demonstrates the syGlass 3-D virtual reality scientific visualization system. In the background is a two-dimensional version of what she’s seeing: an image of mouse brain cells (Photo by Raymond Thompson Jr.).


We expected the future to have jetpacks and holograms, says Michael Morehead. The jetpacks haven’t happened. But now, he says, we’re the closest to holograms we’ve ever been.

Morehead is cofounder and chief operating officer of syGlass, a new company started at WVU that is in the final stages of commercializing a 3-D virtual reality scientific visualization system.

Wearing the commercial HTC Vive virtual reality headset, neuroscience researchers can move a 3-D image of brain cells 360 degrees in any direction to understand how individual cells are interacting. They can slice across the image and get instant cross sections that would have had to be painstakingly sliced and examined in a microscope. 

As researchers across the world struggle to analyze hundreds of terabytes of data, they need ways to hunt through the data to find areas of study and systematically identify each piece of the data. While this software was developed for neuroscience research at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, it can be applied to other avenues of research.

The product began as a collaboration between neuroscience director George Spirou and Computer Vision research group director Gianfranco Doretto, to create a digital 3-D wall to make more advances in neuroscience research. But the wall of large TV monitors would be expensive for other labs to reproduce. So they developed syGlass, which is wrapping up beta testing and will soon be available for sale. 

This technology development was funded through a grant from the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute and supported by the WVU Health Sciences Innovation Center, Office of Technology Transfer and the College of Law’s clinical law program.

Eyeprint ID

You don’t often know where asking a question will take you. This time, it took scientists to a patent for a technology that is already making financial information more secure.

Arun Ross, then an engineering profesor at WVU, and Reza Derakhshani, MS ’99, Electrical Engineering, PhD ’04, Computer Engineering, wanted to know if the blood vessel patterns in the whites of the eye could be used to identify someone. 

Blood vessel patterns are unique identifiers, as they and their students found. And blood vessel patterns are easier to identify than eye iris patterns, which aren’t as easy to identify if you’re not looking at the eye straight on, or if you’re not using a near-infrared camera. But cell phone cameras can capture blood vessel patterns.

That’s exactly how Ross and Derakhshani’s work, which they patented, is being used. They licensed the patent to a company, EyeVerify, which combined their work with other data points to create Eyeprint ID, a software security system used by financial institutions like Wells Fargo to protect their customers’ online banking information. If you were a customer at a bank using this technology, the software would confirm your identity through an image of your eye as an additional layer of security to a password. EyeVerify was recently acquired by Ant Financial, an arm of Alibaba, a Chinese online sales company that generates more annual revenue than Amazon and eBay combined.

Ross says the exciting part about the team’s work is that while it’s being used for banking security, it can be used in so many other fields, including other security applications such as surveillance or access to buildings, or to allow health researchers to study blood vessel patterns as a health marker.

This technology development was originally funded by a grant from the Center for Identification Technology Research, a National Science Foundation-funded center partially housed at WVU.

Test Track Archive

Spring 2016

This invention that fits in a car's tailpipe can help contribute to getting cleaner air in our cities.

Continue Reading

Spring 2017

A new virtual reality system developed at WVU is pushing neuroscience forward. An eye-scanning technology is keeping financial information safe around the world.

Continue Reading