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Tom Chau honoured with Order of Ontario

Dr. Tom Chau, Senior Member IEEE, Toronto Section, was invested into the Order of Ontario at a ceremony in Toronto on February 27. The Order of Ontario honours individuals who have achieved excellence in their field and made contributions that leave a lasting legacy in the province, the country and the world.

Dr. Chau received his Order of Ontario Insignia in the Legislature of Ontario on Feb. 27
Photo credit: Government of Ontario

“Tom’s extraordinary dedication to pediatric rehabilitation has helped improve the lives of many children and their loved ones, and he has also inspired a number of students to pursue this important work,” said Professor Warren Chan, director of the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Chau, Professor at IBBME and Vice-President, Research at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital leads a world-renowned research group that has published more than 190 journal articles and holds more than a dozen patents.

He leads his team in development of technologies that enable young people with severe physical limitations to communicate independently. Chau has received the most recognition for creation of the Hummer and the Virtual Musical Instrument (VMI). The Hummer converts vocal cord vibrations (such as a hum) into digital signals allowing children with speech-related disabilities to communicate via a smartphone interface. The Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) is a technology adapted around the world enabling people with disabilities to create music without having to hold or manipulate an instrument. Chau has also pioneered optical brain-computer interfaces that allow nonverbal individuals to communicate through thought alone.

Said the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, "He has literally given voice to children who had none."

Inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2017, Chau has received more than 31 international, national and local awards for the impact of his research and leadership including the 2016 March of Dimes Canada Jonas Salk Pioneer Award. He and his team were honoured with the 2017 Governor General Meritorious Service Cross for development of the VMI. In 2011 he was named one of 25 Transformational Canadians by The Globe and Mail.

Contributed by Bruce Van-Lane, IEEE Canadian Review

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