A musician who cut his teeth on text based rap battles on Orkut—India’s favourite social network before Facebook came around—and a vet seem like an odd pairing as inventors that have come up with a way to update the stethoscope after over 150 years, but that’s exactly the story behind Muse Diagnostics, a Bengaluru-based company that is using databasing, AI analytics, and telemedicine to update the stethoscope.
“Traditional stethoscopes allow doctors to listen to and interpret body sounds, a skill called auscultation,” said Arvind Badrinayanan, one of the founders of Muse Diagnostics, the creators of the Taal Stethoscope. “[The problem is] traditional devices are painful to wear and use, cannot remove external noise and cannot record or analyze these sounds.”
To deal with this, Badrinayaran—a vet—cut the stethoscope and inserted a microphone in it, connected to his laptop. By doing this, he was able to pick up much fainter sounds, without the disturbance caused by external noise.
“Two years later, I met my cofounder Sumukh at a recording studio where I was trying to digitize heart sounds from a vinyl record and he was recording music as a successful rapper,” said Badrinayanan. He was trying to extract digital heart sounds from a Vinyl LP from the 1960s that had recorded heart sounds, to run through a diagnostic algorithm. His co-founder, Sumukh Mysore’s knowledge of audio recording, formats and transfer, kicked off a conversation among the two.
Mysore, aka Smokey the Ghost, has had his music featured in movies like Chennai Express and Detective Byomkesh Bakshi. He’s best known for Macha’s With Attitude, a hip-hop trio from Bengaluru and Chennai, and apart from the Hindi films, their music was featured in several Tamil, Telegu, and Kannada films.
But Mysore’s own background is also in the sciences, as he worked in the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) where he worked as a geneticist.
As a result, the two men bonded over cutting edge biology, and then “over the potential for a digital stethoscope looking at body sounds through the eyes of the music industry.” Mysore and Badrinarayanan took inspiration from Shazam (the app that can identify songs through their aural fingerprint) and from this, developed the Taal, and its companion app.
“Body sounds contain more information about our health than any other portable examination device such as ECGs, thermometers or pulse oximeters and their capture and analysis through our device is over ten times cheaper than an ultrasound or similar digital stethoscopes,” said Badrinayanan.
Technology like this has the potential to make a huge impact in India, where cost and accessibility can often keep new developments out of the hands of the people who most need help. That’s where products like the Taal Digital Stethoscope can really make a difference.
The Eco1 Rocket Stove, the Taal Digital Stethoscope, and Unnati Solar Silk are the three winners of the winners of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Innovation Showcase that recently took place in Bengaluru. The three inventors (from Chandigarh, Bengaluru and Delhi/Ranchi respectively) get a share in seed grants worth $30,000, along with technical help in bringing their products to the market.
They’ll also be competing with other finalists from Kenya, and Washington, for a finale event that takes place in New York later in the year.
ASME’s panel of judges includes a group of successful entrepreneurs, academics, and founders of venture-funded startup companies.
“The extraordinary solutions put forward by today’s winners will undoubtedly allow us collectively to do more, and do better,” said Said Jahanmir, President of ASME. “Their display of creativity and ingenuity fully captures the spirit of ASME’s ISHOW and exemplifies engineering problem-solving that improves lives.”
Eco1 Rocket Stove
Smoke from wood burning stoves in Indian households is a leading cause of indoor pollution in the country, impacting the health of millions. There have been several attempts to solve this problem, and a new stove called the Eco1 Rocket could reduce the demand for fuel by 50%, its creators say.
Developed in the Himalayas, the goal is to save over 1 million trees over ten years while also making the homes of people using the stoves safer and cleaner. Australian Russel Collins, the Director-Founder of Himalayan Rocket Stove along with a local team from the various regions of the Himalayas brought together a unique product that would reduce illegal logging of forests in the mountains, and also reduce the CO2 emissions from domestic heating and cooking.
“The reduction in pollution is particularly striking with an estimated 90% reduction in noxious gases, including black carbon,” Collins said. “At this stage there is a plethora of improved cooking solutions for those who are using open fire or rudimentary cooking stoves, but there are no improved heating solutions on offer in India at all. We are soon to offer water heating using waste heat from the exhaust, and pellet feeder for combustion of biomass pellets.”
“The introduction of biomass pellets into a domestic setting is utterly unique in India,” he added. “It will reduce forestry demand from 50% down to almost 0%.”
Tussar silk might not sound like a product that needs a high tech intervention, but that’s exactly what happened with Unnati Silk. “Back in 2010, we started efforts to market the ‘world’s first certified Organic Silk’ internationally. This was our entry point into the silk production industry in India,” said Kunal Vaid, Director of Resham Sutra, which created Unnati Silk.
“We soon realized that the archaic techniques and equipment in use for yarn and fabric production were a major bottle-neck that had to be solved for any growth in this sector,” he said. “The tribal areas of East India, where most of the wild silk is produced, had none to very erratic electricity supply, so it also became apparent that any solution had to work on alternate sources of power.”
The solution is a solar powered machine for reeling Tassar silk yarn, designed for some of the poorest and most remote parts of the country. The company is also training young people in far flung villages to create locally available service, while generating jobs in these regions.
“We now have more than 10,000 customers in fourteen states of India. We have designed and commercialized nine different machines for various operations like silk reeling, spinning, twisting and weaving,” Vaid said. “We see this as a small start to a major effort needed in sustainably growing rural livelihoods and silk production in India.”