X-Ray Vision Tech That Can Detect Cancer Could Be Coming to Future Smartphones
Six years ago, Raviv Melamed and his co-founders were in the basement of his house testing technology they hoped could bring medical-grade x-ray vision to the masses.
A year later in 2012, the lightbulb moment occurred and Melamed’s company Vayyar had a product – a sensor that would allow devices to “see through” barriers such as skin and walls. The first application was the ability to see malignant growth through human tissue to identify early-stage breast cancer.
“When you start to look for things like breast cancer imaging, you realize why 40 percent of women don’t go get biannual testing, because it’s very uncomfortable. Now think about a woman who doesn’t make a lot of money, she has to drive to the clinic and take the day off. She would prefer to take this day off when needed. I was thinking about bringing the device to the woman rather than the woman to the device,” Melamed told CNBC by phone in a recent interview.
“You need to make it low cost. When you think about emerging markets, no government will install a system that involves an x-ray machine because it’s too expensive. The idea was to create a super low cost device.”
Vayyar has developed a sensor that can be integrated into a number of devices and is looking to broaden the appeal. The Israeli start-up released a device called Walabot last year – a smartphone attachment that allows a person to hold their handset to a wall and see objects on the other side. This could be useful for locating wires and pipes while doing house renovations.
But the applications are many. For example, a sensor could be used in homes rather than cameras to keep an eye on elderly relatives.
“When people think about cameras they think about their privacy. The biggest problem for elderly is if they fall, they stay there for hours, and it’s a big issue. Usually they feel helpless. Now would you put a camera in a bedroom or bathroom? Never. But if you have a device that can see through the wall or bathroom but doesn’t compromise the privacy, but can tell if you are sitting or standing or breathing, you’d want that,” Melamed said.
Vayyar has also attracted a large amount of investment and at the end of 2015 raised a $22 million funding round led by Walden Riverwood Ventures and included Battery Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners.
While the sensor is only currently integrated in Walabot, Melamed said the company sees this potentially being fitted into smartphones.
“We are talking with smartphone manufacturers that are thinking about integrating this. This is right now not for everyday smartphones. It’s more for a directed market. But I’m sure in the future it will go into more devices.”