Dr. Joseph Sgro, Founder and CEO
Joseph Sgro is a mathematician, neurologist and a technologist/entrepreneur in the field of frame grabbers, high speed smart cameras, vision processors, and related computer vision and machine vision technologies.
Sgro began his career as an academic researcher in advanced mathematics and logic. He received an AB in Mathematics in 1970 from UCLA followed by an MA in mathematics in 1973 and a PhD in mathematics in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied logic model theory under H. Jerome Keisler.
After serving as an instructor and post doctoral fellow at Yale and also holding a membership at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University, Sgro returned to school to study neurology, and received his M.D. in 1980 from the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, followed by an internship and a residency in neurology.
As an outgrowth of his work in neurophysiology, while still working as a post-doctoral fellow and an assistant professor of neurology, Sgro founded Alacron, Inc. in 1985 to manufacture frame grabbers and related technologies to commercialize the technology built to support his academic research. Extending his work in machine vision technology, in 2002, Sgro and his engineering team began work on developing the next generation of smart cameras.
While researching mathematical logic, Sgro became interested in investigating the logic systems that the brain uses to process sensory information, and returned to school, intending to study neurophysiology, the branch of neurology and physiology that examines the functioning of the peripheral nervous system and cortical processing of sensory information. Neurophysiological research typically uses imaging tools for visualizing chemical activity in nerve pathways, and today also involves fMRI and other technologies to visualize brain activity. After receiving his M.D. degree from Miami in 1980, Sgro completed his internship at the University of North Carolina in 1981 and his residency in neurology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1984.
After serving as a post-doctoral fellow in neurophysiology (1983–1985), as an Associate in Neurology (1985–1986) and then as an Assistant Professor of Neurology (1986–1987) at The College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City, Sgro relocated to Richmond, Virginia. There he served first as an Associate Professor of Neurology and as the Head of Neurophysiology (1987–1991) and finally, as Chief of the Division of Clinical Neurophysiology (1991–1994) at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.
While working as a neurology researcher, Sgro focused increasingly on the use of machine vision technologies (especially frame grabbers) during surgery, to acquire graphical imagery measuring the operation of neurological function in various states of consciousness.
During his post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Sgro achieved recognition in the medical community for his research and findings on the theory of evoked potentials, with a particular focus on somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs). He proved that SSEPs were “state dependent,” varying depending on whether the patient was awake or asleep (anesthetized). Following these findings, Sgro developed a more effective way to utilize the theory of evoked potentials by inventing technology and techniques to analyze ultra fast, pseudo-random evoked potentials. This work produced a more effective identification and treatment of sub-clinical diseases (diseases that otherwise went undetected and/or untreated until they become severe enough to qualify as clinical).
Achieving more effective detection and treatment of sub-clinical diseases involved increasingly intensive intra-operative patient monitoring. This research and the resulting findings stimulated Sgro’s interest in machine vision, specifically the use of frame grabbers to monitor neurological impulses during complex surgery.
To commercialize hardware developed initially for evoked potentials research, in 1985, Sgro co-founded Alacron, Inc. to do basic research and to build commercial medical imaging products such as frame grabbers. He was also appointed as an adjunct associate professor of Neurology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1994.
Sgro's research work resulted in the following publications and grants:
- The Development of Methods for the Analysis of Non-Time-Stable Brain Responses. Whitaker Foundation grant, 1985-1989.
- Phase synchronized triggering: A method for coherent noise elimination in evoked potential recording, Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Volume 60, Issue 5, May 1985, Pages 464-468, ISSN 0013-4694, 10.1016/0013-4694(85)91021-1.
- Real-time reconstruction of evoked potentials using a new two-dimensional filter method, Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology (Evoked Potentials Section), Volume 62, Issue 5, September 1985, Pages 372-380, ISSN 0168-5597, 10.1016/0168-5597(85)90046-2.
- Assessment of Afferent and Efferent Neuropathways in Severe Head Injury. NIH Program Project Grant #2P01NS012587, 1989-1992.
- Pathophysiology and Mortality of Status Epilepticus in Central Nervous System. NIH Program Grant #1P01NS025630-01A1, 1989-1998.
- Conventional and rapid stimulation evoked potential changes in patients with status epilepticus, Epilepsy Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 1993, Pages 149-156, ISSN 0920-1211, 10.1016/0920-1211(93)90095-O.
In 1985, Sgro co-founded Alacron, Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. Sgro and the Alacron engineering team focused on the development and production of frame grabbers and high speed image processing computational subsystems. The product family currently includes frame grabbers, software, data recording devices and supporting peripherals. Despite initial focus on neurophysiology research and medical imaging, Alacron saw uses for its products expand outside the field of medicine into other applications, such as manufacturing, military, and other industries that use robotics extensively. Alacron is one of the two largest frame grabber manufacturers in the Automated Imaging Association's annual market data report.
Examples of broader machine vision uses of frame grabbers originally developed for use in medical imaging include AS&E, which incorporated Alacron technology in backscatter X-ray equipment used for border security, and as image capture used for Voyage Data Recorders, the maritime equivalent of aviation “black boxes.”
In addition to the commercial product lines offered by Alacron, Sgro continued to perform basic research in integrating frame grabber technology with specialized systems for various disciplines. The company received SBIR grants where Sgro acted as principal investigators, including:
- "A Digital Signal Processing Evoked Potential Machine” NIH SBIR #1R44NS024494. 1986 (Phase 1), 1988-1990 (Phase 2).
- "A Self Optimizing Evoked Potential Amplifier,” NIH SBIR #1R43NS24490. 1986-1987 (Phase 1), 1989-1991 (Phase 2).
- "A Magnetic Stimulator for Neurophysiology," NIH SBIR #1R43NS24924, 1986-1987 (Phase 1); 1989-1991 (Phase 2).
- "An Event Detecting Video/EEG Monitoring System,” NlH SBIR #1R43NS26204 , 1988-1989.
- "A Magnetic Neural Stimulator for Neurophysiology," NIH SBIR II #2R44NS24924, 1989-1991.
- ”An Efficient Lossless EEG Compression Engine,” NIH SBIR #1R43NS34211. 1995-1997 (phase 1); 1999-2003 (phase 2).
- "Scalable Programmable Accelerator for Affordable High Performance Computing,” DARPA Contract #N66001-96-C-8611, 1997-2001.
Academic presentations of Alacron’s technology and research include: