The Edmond Sun

Local News

March 17, 2014

Edmond alum making his mark in robotics

EDMOND — Rich LeGrand was like many high school students who were looking at what path their educational future would go.

With a little guidance from a former physics teacher at Edmond Memorial High School, the 1988 graduate found that direction through the world of robotics.

And, today LeGrand is helping to repay some of that influence through his work as president of Charmed Labs LLC in Austin, whose purpose is bringing advanced technologies to a new audience by making the technologies easy to use and affordable.

“I was an average student in school,” LeGrand said. “Steve Mathis was my physics teacher. He helped me and my brother a lot trying to find our bearings or what our interests were and what we should study in college. I found robotics, which piqued my interest.”

LeGrand said he entered a variety of robotics contests in Oklahoma and across the country during high school. He later graduated from Rice University where he studied electrical engineering. He started Charmed Labs in 2002.

LeGrand said part of Charmed Labs’ mission is to give back to the educational community and encourage interest in science and technology.

“I formed this company because I thought there were other kids out there like (me) that needed some inspiration,” LeGrand said. “We especially enjoy connecting with the educational, hobbyist and maker communities. They have used our products in innovative and interesting ways and have inspired us with their cool ideas.”

Charmed Labs’ first product was the Xport.

“Our first product, the Xport, plugged into the back of the GameBoy Advance where the game cartridge normally plugged in,” LeGrand said. “It gave the GameBoy unique I/O capabilities, and led to the first known GameBoy Advance robot and camera.”

LeGrand said his company found success working with Carnegie Mellon University on the development and marketing of Gigapan, which brings pixel imagery to photographers, educators and image creators.

LeGrand co-founded Gigapan and wrote much of the software and did the electronic design. The company was later sold.

“We were essentially the engineering firm and hardware designer for the project,” LeGrand said.

Today, that project evolved into GigaPan Systems, a global, privately held technology company that provides the hardware, software, and services to create and share high-resolution, interactive gigapixel panoramic images. The company is headquartered in Portland, Ore.

The Gigapan technology was recently used in a Time Magazine cover shoot and graphics outline.

LeGrand’s latest project called Pixy, a fast, easy-to-use machine vision to robots everywhere also has taken off thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, which far exceeded expectations.

“Kickstarter is the perfect platform to reach a targeted audience,” LeGrand said. “We set out with an initial goal of $25,000 and we ended up getting almost 11 times that which was very heart-warming.”

LeGrand said he continues to brainstorm ideas for future projects.

“I feel lucky in the sense that I have tons of ideas,” he said. “I have a Word document on my computer that is pages of stuff that I want to try out.

“I pick the best ones and Pixi was one of those ideas. My hope is once Pixy ramps down then I can try the next idea. It is hugely rewarding for me to start with an idea and develop it.”

LeGrand said despite the success he had, he is proud that his company has remained small and innovative.

“The company started small and it has stayed small,” he said.

“I never intended to become rich. If I was going to get rich in the process that is fine, but it was never the goal.

“It is about paying back and trying to reach those kids. That is what is has been all about for me.”

 

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