Paul Reed Smith Detours into Medical Imaging

Guitar maker Paul Reed Smith has launched startup Digital Harmonic, which has developed technology designed to deliver sharper X-rays to medical professionals, as well as reduce radiation.

The technology, resulting from the luthier’s previous efforts to engineer a guitar synthesizer, extracts previously undetected data out of waveforms to generate clearer, more-detailed images.

Standard x-ray before (left) and after (right)
Digital Harmonic's technology is applied.

“This is a way of measuring images and measuring waveforms, and then dissecting them,” Smith said.

The technology, which Smith describes as “completely mathematical,” is built on a decade of research that started with his late father, Jack Smith, a former government mathematician.

In his attempt to create a new guitar synth, Smith experimented with measuring waveforms from a guitar string. When he asked his father how best to measure those waveforms, the mathematician had an immediate answer involving high harmonics.

“I said, ‘you can’t answer a $20 million question in 10 seconds,’” Smith recalls. “He said, ‘well, I just did.’ And I got interested in what the hell my old man had to say.”

While the work with his father didn’t lead to a guitar synth, it did lead to technology that, Smith said, could truly revolutionize the practice of medical imaging technology.

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Digital Harmonic has raised $5 million in funding, half of its goal, and has recruited an advisory board made up of medical experts from Johns Hopkins University, the University of California, San Diego and a former director of the National Cancer Institute. The team is searching for a CEO to head the new venture, while Smith keeps his focus on PRS Guitars. “Believe me, my world is full up without starting a guitar synthesizer company,” he added.

Smith hopes to have a market-ready product available in about six months, though approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could take more than a year.


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