Honors B.S. Electrical Engineering, 2008 Co-founder and System Architect Chirp Microsystems Berkeley, California While working on his Ph.D. at the University of California, Richard Przybyla and his colleagues developed an ultrasonic 3D rangefinder system that fits on a chip. In 2013, he co-founded Chirp Microsystems to commercialize the research.
Five years later, his company was acquired by TDK Corporation, a global leader in sensor technology and electronic components. One reason TDK was particularly excited to snap up Chirp is that Przybyla and his team have adapted the rangefinder system to more precisely track the motion of headsets used in TDK’s virtual reality (VR) platforms.
“It is actually a quite challenging problem, but we’ve solved it using ultrasound,” Przybyla said. “Our solution uses a combination of software and sensors embedded into the headset.” Przybyla says that companies making VR platforms are moving toward mobile technology that incorporates a computer built into the VR helmet. This shift eliminates the need for all the extra equipment – an external PC, cables, and a camera set up across the room – currently necessary to operate the VR experience.
“It will become a self-contained unit, designed to be portable so you can take it with you and play it wherever you want, essentially making it more useful and easier for people to engage with VR,” he said. Chirp is now working with other TDK-owned companies to integrate its ultrasound technology with complementary technologies that will take VR to the next level. Przybyla imagines a not-too-distant future where it will be easy for everyone to utilize VR technology for a multi-sensory experience with family and friends.
Przybyla says he continues to use the trouble-shooting and technical-writing skills he learned in labs while earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State. He encourages new graduates to embrace the areas where they can learn more and challenge themselves to learn something new every day. “You will look back in a year or two and realize how much you have learned since graduation,” he said. “The degree is only the beginning.”