As academic careers in ECE are spent pushing the envelope of technology, sometimes it is a surprise when a new idea comes from an unexpected source. This seems to be the case for the activity of which ECE professor in practice Gene Frantz is in the middle.
Guitar company Paul Reed Smith Guitars discovered an interesting new signal processing concept while trying to resolve an issue with the electronic interface with guitars. Smith’s father, a mathematician, had a solution to the problem that was novel enough to be patented. Since that initial “aha” moment, the company has been further developing the concepts.
Frantz became involved with PRS Guitars three years ago while working at Texas Instruments. As the concepts were perceived as coming from a musician with no involvement with the traditional Digital Signal Processing world, the company and its ideas were dismissed as not relevant. That is when Frantz began to work with them to bridge the gap between their technology and the traditional technology.
Earlier this month, Frantz and Smith guitars met with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. Smith was asked to present the company’s technology to them. He was further asked to bring credible scientists with him to help communicate the concepts to the audience. Frantz was one of those scientists along with Dr. William Nelson, the Head of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University and PRSGuitars’ lead technologist, Shane Morris.
For Frantz, the meeting was successful, and ended back at PRSGuitars’ factory in Annapolis, Maryland, where he and Smith picked out an electric guitar to build for Frantz. The task boiled down to picking the materials needed for the guitar. Smith selected the wood for the instrument and cut the guitar out of the blank.
The result of this relationship between Frantz and PRSGuitars proves that innovation can come from both traditional and non-traditional sources. In many situations the non-traditional path, as withPRSGuitars, has fewer constraints on the innovation process than the traditional path has.
Frantz’s next innovative task is to learning to play the guitar.