Brian Armstrong was recently named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the first faculty member at UWM to earn this honor. Armstrong—who is the inventor named on 22 patents with two others pending—is a professor and department chair, electrical engineering & computer science, in UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science.
“By any measure, 22 patented inventions is a rare accomplishment,” says Andrew Graettinger, the college’s associate dean for research. “Our faculty members are always innovating and working on pioneering research, and patent production at this level is tangible evidence of their success.”
NAI senior members are faculty, scientists and administrators who have demonstrated innovation producing technologies that stand to benefit society. Its 250 member institutions include Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Armstrong’s patents have been issued in 11 countries during his 31 years on UWM’s faculty. (The count includes 12 patents issued while he worked with start-up companies and during his one-year sabbatical at Eaton Corporation’s Innovation Center.)
Most successful invention is Moiré Phase Tracking (MPT)
Armstrong says his most significant work is MPT, a disruptive 3D tracking technology based on optical moiré patterns. It holds applications in clinical imaging and physical therapy.
MPT can erase human motion from 3D images—for example, images captured during an MRI. “If a person moves during an MRI, the image is damaged says Armstrong. “MPT removes what’s known as motion artifacts in MR images, produced when a person moves. The result is a more robust and accurate image that is not damaged or compromised by motion.
Based on MPT, Armstrong co-founded Metria Innovation, Inc and served as the founding president. A medical device company is currently evaluating MPT’s applications to surgery.
Applications in physical therapy
Between 2011-2017, Armstrong received $1.69 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to apply MPT to physical therapy. He developed MPT for assessment in physical therapy, working with Kristian O’Connor, professor, associate professor, kinesiology. (The team won NIH R15 and SBIR awards, Phase I and II.)
“Using MPT motion tracking during physical therapy permits instrumented assessment of motion, where observation assessment is used today,” he says. One group that benefits from the technology is runners, who can have a base-line assessment done, then a second assessment if an injury arises. Comparison of the two shows detailed changes in walking and running patterns.
Armstrong to be honored April 2020
In addition to developing MPT, Armstrong has extensive experience in spatial sensing, estimation, robotics, and real-time systems, and has worked with a number of other spatial sensing modalities, including microwave, array-Doppler radar. His patents hold applications in the fields of mechanical systems, spatial sensing, wireless communications and hydraulic motor control.
In April, Armstrong will be honored at NAI’s annual meeting in Phoenix, along with the other 53 newly-named academic inventors, all of whom are faculty, scientists or administrators from NAI member institutions.