From password protection entrepreneur to an Alexa hackathon champion, teams sponsored by university and LaunchNet programs are ready to demo
From “tricked-out” robots to augmented and virtual reality to sound-warping software, the entrepreneurial and inventive best from Case Western Reserve University students, faculty, alumni and partners will be on display at CES 2020 in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10.
The Case Western Reserve contingent this year again includes Everykey, a startup company that specializes in consolidating and protecting passwords and electronic keys. Everykey, which in December won a TechOhio award for startup culture, is a student-founded company that shows how CES plays a part in clearing a path to success, said CWRU LaunchNet Director Bob Sopko, who organizes the trip and accompanies the student presenters to the trade show each year.
Everykey, now located near campus with nearly a dozen employees, is returning to CES to show off a shippable product, said founder and CWRU alum Chris Wentz, a 2013 computer science major.
“We are so grateful to have Case Western Reserve’s ongoing support in getting us to CES again,” said Wentz, who in June 2019 also won the Morganthaler-Pavey Startup Competition.
The CES ‘learning experience’
Sopko said that ongoing support mentioned by Wentz illustrates what LaunchNet and Case Western Reserve are trying to accomplish by bringing a team of presenters to CES for a seventh consecutive year.
“This show is important at so many different levels for different presenters, helping in some cases with customer validation, for example,” he said. “So this is not only a show and a demo of what we’re accomplishing, but also a learning experience for entrepreneurs, some who are just starting out.”
CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The annual international convention draws about 175,000 attendees from 161 countries, including tens of thousands of thought leaders, inventors, investors and companies for multiple days of innovation, sharing and media buzz (look for #CES2020 on social media).
Case Western Reserve will move to an open format display in the Eureka Park area of the Sands Auditorium. (Look for Booth #51548, Eureka Park, Tech West, Sands, Hall G, if you’re on-site)
Case Western Reserve will again have the largest CES contingent from a single university, Sopko said, giving his team a better chance to get noticed in the hubbub of a sprawling high-energy, high-tech show.
“For us, it’s about continually building an ecosystem here at CWRU and also in Northeast Ohio, which is why we have students and faculty and alumni and community folks all together,” he said.
The CWRU team
The Case Western Reserve lineup for CES 2020, starting with a trio of projects led by current students, includes:
Tauon and Love My Echo
Tauron is a startup Austin Wilson, a sophomore computer science major and winner of multiple hackathons and competitions for Alexa (Alexa Champion in 2017) and at Hyland Software, where he’s interning for a fourth year; Love My Echo will be a demo of his other project, a website offering “hacks and helps,” or insights for operating the Alexa Echo. That demo will be run by his father Mike Wilson, who is concurrently a CWRU alumnus, staff member of 19 years (research assistant, School of Medicine) and student (Weatherhead MBA program). Austin Wilson is also the co-developer of a mobile phone app to help students quickly know the location of an active shooter in a school, a project tested at his alma mater, Rocky River High School.
At CES, Austin Wilson will focus on Tauon, a company that he said aims to “give games a voice”—that is, to help video-game developers incorporate voice-activated commands into gaming to expose players to a whole new level of immersion. “We strive to allow games to live alongside advances in human-computer interaction with players in mind, especially through voice,” he said.
The startup is run by third-year mechanical engineering major, Robert Steward, and fourth-year electrical engineering major, Adam Cordingley, who are “working on creating mechanical and electrical components for making high-quality robotics more accessible to consumers.” At CES, they plan to unveil their ultra-wideband localization modules meant for autonomous robotics—the robot Sopko referred to as the “tricked out Roomba.” The devices do not require GPS, allowing them to work indoors and in space exploration, said Steward. He returns to CES with Repowered Robotics after two years with Enabled Robotics, a startup working on an exoskeleton for rehabilitation for people with degenerative muscular disorders.
“Since I started school at Case (Western Reserve), I have wanted to make robotics something that anyone can work with,” he said. “I think the way we are presenting our work will allow for just that.”
Inventors Donghui Li and Zhe Ren, both doctoral candidates in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, are working on perfecting a bandage that can be removed easily after exposing its adhesive to ultraviolet light. They hope to market the yet-to-be developed product to those caring for elderly patients or newborn infants, whose skin tears more easily when a standard adhesive is removed.
“Last year, we learned a lot about product development, but this year, the goals of Lumen Polymer for CES 2020 are simple—to talk with product development people in polymer industry and look for potential funding,” Li said.
The CWRU duo also is working with Leslie Stern, a student at Cleveland Institute of Art.
Two other presenters are Case School of Engineering graduates, Wentz and Bing Ying “Judy” Feng, who will display Ant-x, a “smart” food scale that can tell the user not only the weight of his or her meal, but the nutritional value (or lack of) and send that detailed information to a phone or any electronic device.
“This started out as a product that would be really helpful to food-service companies to be more precise in measuring and billing for different foods,” said Feng, a 2016 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “But we really look at this product as being able to help millions of people who need to monitor calories or sugar or sodium or anything at all.” Feng will demonstrate the retail-oriented scale at CES, but said the company also is working on a household version as well as adding a camera to recognize foods and calculate their nutritional value.
CWRU’s innovation ecosystem
Three more presenters hail from the Case Western Reserve “innovation ecosystem,” Sopko said.
The university’s Interactive Commons is the developer of the award-winning and first Microsoft HoloLens third-party app, HoloAnatomy. The team has been in the news twice again this year as developers worked with School of Dental Medicine faculty member—and narwhal expert—Martin Nweeia to develop an immersive look at the sea creature and its signature, singular tusk (actually a tooth), and with Cameron McIntyre, the Tilles-Weidenthal Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the School of Medicine, on a project to build the world’s first mixed-reality brain atlas.
The university’s groundbreaking, 50,000-square-foot public maker and innovation space, Sears think[box], this year will be represented by Ricky Graham, a think[box] employee and adjunct professor. He will demonstrate Stream, a musical sound manipulation software. Delta is an “audio technology company comprised of “a team of artists and engineers focused on bridging analog and digital domains to create new instruments for the music, film and gaming industries,” according to its website. Graham said he hopes to connect with video game-makers at CES.
“Sound designers are looking to create big textures out of any kind of audio recording, any kind of sound and that’s what our software can do,” he said. “But because we can also do it faster than any of our competitors, we’re starting to be used by live music performers as well.”
A commercial virtual reality (VR) company, which is working with the CWRU School of Medicine’s Medicaid Equity Simulation Project, will present two of the project’s VR training platforms—Neighborhood Immersion for Compassion & Empathy and Families Living in Poverty, both funded by Ohio Medicaid Technical Assistance And Policy Program. The purpose of the CWRU MES Project is to advance health equity for Ohio’s Medicaid population by increasing health care providers and their teams’ cultural competence and awareness of implicit bias through VR and augmented reality training. The VR platforms educate health care teams to better understand and serve the needs of their patients. BioflightVR also is bringing its Surgical Skills Trainer, a procedural-learning program that “walks health-care practitioners through a shoulder surgery in VR.”
Supporting the Northeast Ohio entrepreneur ecosystem
Sopko said CWRU also strives to be an important contributor to growing the Northeast Ohio entrepreneur ecosystem and is hosting several other presenters, including the following.
Representatives from the blocklandcleveland initiative will explain they were formed to educate and promote real-world blockchain applications. A number of companies with CWRU alumni are already using this new technology to provide valuable services, Sopko said.
Everyone makes Progress
Everyone makes Progress is a service that collects data from fitness apps, wearables, equipment, free weights, group exercise, more and stores it on a secure blockchain. Users then have control of who they allow access.
Axuall is a next-generation digital network for verifying identity, credentials, and authenticity in real-time through the use of blockchain technology. They were unanimously approved as a Sovrin Steward by the Sovrin Foundation Board of Trustees.
Finally, RooSense, an entry from the University of Akron and Bounce Innovation Hub will also share space. RooSense is supported by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, a vital supporter of CWRU’s efforts, Sopko said. RooSense is “developing flexible, durable, fabric sensors that can easily be integrated into clothing and gear already worn by athletes.”
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