Four Indians in MIT’s ‘Innovators Under 35’ list

A cooling material that saves energy by sending heat into outer space and can be used for air-conditioning with very little electricity.

An affordable obstacle detection system for the blind, which uses ultrasonic ranging. Technologies that could make it easy for semi-literate people to use online services by talking into phones or making gestures which would be picked up by cameras.

A low-cost infant warmer that does not need continuous power. These are the path-breaking innovations that have ensured four Indians a place in this year's edition of MIT Technology Review's prestigious list of '35 Innovators Under 35', announced early on Tuesday.

Previous winners include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the selection is a recognition the publication accords to "exceptionally talented technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world," according to an MIT release.

Rahul Alex Panicker, co-founder of Embrace Innovations which makes infant warmers that do not need continuous power, has been acknowledged as a humanitarian for his work in medicine and biotechnology" while Xerox India researcher Saurabh Srivastava's "voice and gestural interfaces could make digital technologies available to the world's poorest people", according to MIT Tech Review. "The work is very satisfying because it is aimed at marginalised users," Srivastava, 30, said, adding that he was very happy with the recognition.

His work, which focuses on helping people deprived of technology get real-time information online, is primarily in voice- and gesture-based interfaces for lowliterate users.

Panicker, 34, said the recognition was a huge honour. "I hope it inspires more young innovators to pursue their passion, grab that solder-iron and go change the world!" he said. Incidentally, both Panicker and Srivastava are currently based in Bengaluru.

Among the Indian winners is Rohan Paul, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, whose 'SmartCane' for the blind vibrates when it detects obstacles through ultrasonic sensors. Paul has termed his $50 device for the blind a "people's product" and "a humble tribute to the Mahatma".

Aaswath Raman, the fourth Indian in MIT's rankings has crafted a unique material with "optimum levels of thermal radiation and solar reflection" which, when used to coat a roof that's not insulated, would keep the insides cool. The post-doctoral researcher at Stanford has received $3 million funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy to develop his technology.

"Over the years, we've had success in choosing young innovators whose work has been profoundly influential on the direction of human affairs," MIT Technology Review editor-inchief and publisher Jason Pontin was quoted as saying. "Previous winners include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the cofounders of Google, Mark Zuckerberg, the cofounder of Facebook and Jonathan Ive, the chief designer of Apple. We're proud of our selections and the variety of achievements they celebrate…"

Last year's edition of MIT Tech Review's 35 winners included three Indians: Tanuja Ganu, for her work in coming up with a simple device to monitor India's power grid cheaply and easily, Manu Prakash, for his innovative, "frugal" scientific instruments such as a $5 microfluidic chemistry lab, and Shyam Gollakota, for his prototypes of battery-free wireless devices.