My first job was in the Spinal Plasticity Lab at CSULA. We taught paralyzed rats how to walk using robots. It was every bit as weird as it sounds.
Analyzing kinematic data meant learning to program. Repairing the Rat Stepper when it became clogged with fur meant learning about motors and electronics. I started tinkering, building an OpenEEG and a Persinger Helmet (the EEG worked – the helmet did not). At the time, neural prosthetics were beginning to seem like a plausible near-term reality. Many groups in the LA area were doing groundbreaking research in Brain-Machine Interface and it was my good fortune to work with several of them.
I was granted a fellowship in Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech, and briefly worked with Richard Andersen’s lab, developing the UI for a brain implant to control a computer with thoughts alone. I later worked with Huntington Medical Research Institutes, chronically implanting electrode arrays (i.e., building rat cyborgs) to record activity in the rat motor cortex. When I was accepted to USC’s graduate program in Neural Engineering, at first I was excited.
Much ink has been spilled over the multiple crises in American academia. USC is in its own category. Promised research positions failed to materialize and absurd expenses mounted. I took a leave of absence, and opened a prototyping firm.
My timing was very good. Ludicrum Labs launched during a golden age of electronics. Rapidly developing new products came easily, allowing more time for design.
Among the first integrated platforms I designed was with Architect Jeremy Levine. SmartGarden is a solar-powered wireless networked device for garden monitoring. We knew IoT would be big, but we didn’t realize how big. We first imagined the platform, it was managed via a web portal. This custom solution anticipated an explosion of networked garden products available off-the-shelf today, most of which are controlled via native mobile app.