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Here at EOI we have two main kinds of project. One is normal client work, where we design and prototype custom instruments or parts of instruments, and the other is our internal technology development projects. Some of our internal efforts fail, mostly because they tend to be insanely hard, but the ones that pay off give us important new capabilities.
Customer work almost always succeeds, and on the rare occasions when it doesn't, usually it's mostly because of client prevarication, such as cancelling an already-funded project for internal reasons. (In fairness, I've already posted a project from 20 years ago that was more nearly 50:50.) Here's an example of one of those, a transcutaneous (i.e. noninvasive) sensor for blood glucose and alcohol, to replace finger sticks and breathalyzers. This one was really sad---folks have been working on that problem for 30 years, burning through mountains of cash, and mine is the only one I know of that actually worked.
The founder called me out of the blue at 3 PM on Christmas Eve, 2012. He turned out to be a charming and intelligent fellow with a lot of drive and not a lot of education, who was practically supernatural at raising money. He wanted me to build him an instrument, because that's what I do.
He'd patented the general principle, which avoided the individual physiological variations that usually bedevil those sorts of measurements. The idea was to use a hand cradle with a virtual pivot(*) holding a fibre bundle against the web of the first and second fingers. The location is perfect: there are two arteries very close to the surface, so you get to measure fresh blood instead of tissue fluid, and no one has hair, fat, or calluses there to get in the way. (The finger webs are also quite tender to the touch, so if you put a small-diameter pin there as well, you can prevent the user from pushing so hard that the arteries get squashed.)
;There are widespread shortages of electronics parts at the moment, especially passives. Quoted factory lead times are 40 weeks or thereabouts, and since the industry is capacity-limited, it isn't clear that the situation is going to get better any time soon, so everybody's starting to panic. Given all this churn I've been spending an unconscionable amount of time lately finding suitable replacements for out-of-stock parts.
From the cutting room floor at Building Electro-Optical Systems, Third Edition:
This was a patent and trade secret case concerning lidar (laser radar) technology for self-driving cars and trucks. It was the biggest case I've worked on, with potential damages over $2 billion, and also one of the most fun. I was the defendant's expert on the patent side, and we beat Google--they dropped all their patent assertions. (This was made a lot easier by the fact that Uber wasn't infringing, of course.)
Thanks to the efforts of our newest member, Simon Hobbs, we have a new web site with a new look and lots of new content, with more to come. We hope you enjoy it!