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Johnian magazine issue 46, autumn 2020

Shruti Badhwar: career spotlight

Written by Shruti Badhwar (2009)

2 min read

Tech entrepreneur Shruti summarises her career journey and shares her top tip for women wanting to become entrepreneurs.

Still from Embody Company Informative Video 2019. All photography:

It was at a high school science fair that someone suggested I start a company. I took the comment very seriously! In fact, when I was interviewed for the Manmohan Singh Scholarship at St John’s and asked about my next steps, I said that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

My first start-up came out of a hackathon organised by the Humanitarian Centre at Cambridge. I was one of three team members – along with Toby Norman and Maria Chhatriwala – who floated the idea for a mobile-based fingerprint solution called SimPrints. We had our first conversation in the St John’s bar! SimPrints is now led by Toby Norman, who has done an incredible job in growing the company.

My research at St John’s focused on using low-dimensional materials and novel fabrication techniques to close an under-utilised region in the electromagnetic spectrum called the TeraHertz (THz) gap. The THz spectrum has huge implications for security, medical diagnostics and even wireless communications (6G). During my PhD, I developed novel THz optical devices such as lasers, filters and modulators.

As I was graduating, IBM Research was opening up a lab in Africa, and they were impressed that I had shown an interest in applying technology to real-world problems through entrepreneurship activities at Cambridge. Working for IBM, I combined my knowledge of infrared systems (from my PhD) to develop machine-vision models that performed better for people with a dark skin tone.

I then founded Embody, which is a personalised spatial audio company at the intersection of acoustics, machine learning and sound design. We aim to scalably deliver immersive and natural-sounding experiences, and we do this by processing optical data (for example, a photo of a user’s ear) in order to create personalised auditory profiles.

Shruti demonstrates how Embody use images of a user’s ear to create their personalised auditory profiles

Our technology is designed to provide 3D audio to listeners in real-time, on any device and at much lower bandwidth than traditional solutions.

This opens the door for musicians, many of whom have been unable to perform concerts during the pandemic, to reach their fans in a more immersive way online. If we can help with this, it would be a dream come true!

Embody’s 3D audio technology also provides a tactical advantage for gamers because it improves directional accuracy and sound separation, both of which enhance their gameplay.

During the pandemic more people have turned to gaming and other at-home hobbies, and since March 2020 we have launched our technology with three gaming headset providers – Logitech, AudioTechnica and Beyerdynamic.

Thankfully, the team and I have been able to continue most of our work remotely during the pandemic, although we have had to pause some of our measurement work. We keep in touch through Slack and Google Hangouts, but I miss going out for lunch together and engaging in casual conversations in the office kitchen.

I am motivated by a desire to reach people and to create a lasting impact through cutting-edge technology. There are so many problems that I am interested in, and such little time. I’m excited for whatever comes next.

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Shruti's tip for Johnian women considering entrepreneurship

A very undervalued skill for entrepreneurship is empathy, which most women possess. If you can understand someone’s problem, that puts you on a very strong path to entrepreneurship.

Read more about Shruti’s work and check out Embody’s website.

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Shruti is Co-Founder and Vice-President of Engineering at Embody, a tech start-up in San Francisco that marries acoustics and data science to create a personalised audio profile.