Thursday, January 12, 2017

At Innovation Central #MIN94

Tech Square at Night -- View of Draper Garage from One Kendall Square
Host Sembler at Draper provided a first class space, food, and overall hospitality. The location also provided for some feelings of nostalgia on my part -- twofold nostalgia if there is such a thing. My office at Boston Technology 1000 years ago overlooked the Draper parking garage and we used to make jokes about the stunning view. And 100,000 years ago my Dad worked at Draper making it possible for humans to go to the moon among other things.
Cool Display near the Entrance to the Function Room
So many products got thru to me that I'm not sure where to start. So I guess I'll go with the four chosen presenters first:
I was impressed with Airing's amazingly small CPAP device with no mask, no hoses, and no cord.  It uses tiny micro-blowers to create the airflow and all the electronics, including the battery, is built into the molded plastic housing. It just fits right into your nose and stays put without straps or anything.  This could make life way better for people with sleep apnea and for their partners too.
Airing CPAP Device is Really Small!
My favorite was definitely BlindWays, an app that helps blind people find bus stops. Just recently, my partner (who is blind) and I were discussing the difficulties involved in finding bus stops and identifying which bus stops where. She'd heard they're working on that very problem at Perkins, and lo and behold they are.  Betcha didn't know that being 30 feet away from a bus stop can often mean missing the bus and that GPS technology only gets you to within 30 feet of the destination. Hence blind people often miss the bus. So how to navigate those last 30 feet? Landmarks. The BlindWays app crowdsources "clues" that describe permanent landmarks near the bus stop that are detectable with a white cane. Things like fire hydrants, trees, benches, rocks, and mailboxes can get you within four or five feet of the bus stop. Trying to catch that Number 60 bus? Ask the app where the bus stops near you and when it will arrive. Knowing where the bus stops and when the predicted arrival time is can give a blind or low vision person way more confidence in getting around. They got my vote for Audience Choice.
JoAnn Demonstrating BlindWays
Ever noticed your sunglasses slipping off your nose or experienced ill-fitting frames for your regular glasses? Heads aren't all the same. Skelmet makes customized sunglasses fitted to your individual head. It's a simple 3-step process. The Skelmet app scans your face and head. Their algorithms analyze your features to create a design specifically for your head.  Then they use 3D printers to build your custom sunglasses.That's it. Their presentation included a demo using the scanning app to scan the head of a volunteer from the audience. Really cool.
Skelmet Sunglasses --Best Prop of MIN94

Scanning the Head for a Perfect Fit
Floelle takes a new approach to dealing with the problem of involuntarily peeing when you sneeze (or laugh for that matter). This is a common problem for women. Think how many commercials for undergarment solutions to this problem you see during the nightly news.  Floelle's approach does away with the need for absorbent pads and special undergarments. Instead, they've developed a really small device, I do mean really small,  that gets inserted into the urethra. A tiny pressure-sensitive valve blocks the involuntary urine leaks caused by coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc. while allowing you to urinate normally.
Jerrold Shapiro Describing Floelle
I enjoyed talking with Denise about IMMAD, the solution to a problem I've been thinking about since Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana. How can law enforcement officers test for driving impairment after marijuana use? There's no equivalent of the breathalyzer for pot.  IMMAD  is a finger tap tablet application that does a visual test to identify the changes in the ability to perceive depth, speed, and contrast that cause impairment with marijuana use. As more states legalize medical and recreational use of marijuana, there's more and more need for something like this.
Denise Valenti -- IMMAD
Kyrus Mobile automatically disables smartphones while driving. The combination of a device that plugs into the car's data port (you know, that port that your mechanic uses for maintenance data) and software running on the phone disables all those distracting apps on the phone as soon as the vehicle starts moving. The phone works again when the vehicle comes to a complete stop. It's that simple.

Kyrus Mobile
In the Student Startups corner were two startups from Wentworth Accelerate: MyoTherm and Moonwalks.

MyoTherm is an internally heated foam roller. This makes injury rehabilitation and physical therapy involving heat and foam rolling much easier. It also guides the user through learning to do the rolling part correctly. The MyoTherm also provides cold therapy.
Moonwalks is a virtual reality device that attaches to the user's feet to make the experience of moving and walking around in virtual reality more meaningful. It allows you to walk freely in a confined space by compensating for movement. I'm sort of picturing climbing Mt. Monadnock in virtual reality in my living room and really feeling like I'm climbing. I don't know if any of the components of VR are really ready for that kind of experience yet, but Moonwalks brings it a step closer (pun intended). I did have a hard time not laughing at a virtual reality device named Moonwalks being presented at the very home ground of much of the technology that made it possible for actual humans to walk on the actual moon.
I can't say I saw everything. I didn't get a chance to talk to Franklin Robotics, who was there demonstrating Tertill, the weeding robot. I've chatted with him at both MIN and EforAll events previously. I also couldn't get near NextShift Robotics' table, which was very crowded. The crowd for this MIN was one of the largest I've seen.
Crowd -- We're Talking Jam-packed
The Audience Choice winners were:

Among the experts in the Experts Corner were these expert-looking experts from Sembler at Draper.
Experts Looking Expert
But wait, there's more:
I also got to meet Tom O'Donnell from the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub (UML iHub). iHub will be hosting MIN95 on Wednesday, February 15. You definitely want to come to this one. It's all tech-themed and you'll get to see Zwiftpay's wireless payment platform to pay for gas, whom I met at November's EforAll pitch contest, among a great lineup of cool tech products.  Come early and stay late, because you'll discover a lot to like about Lowell.
MassInno Founder Bobbie Carlton and UML iHub Director Tom O'Donnell Want You to Come to Lowell

No comments:

Post a Comment