I get to see lots of presentations in my role at Microsoft but few are as compelling as the one that opened the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect Demo Day today. Jintronix kicked off the 11 presentations from the teams who have been participating in this program in Seattle for the last 13 weeks. They stood in front of a room of over 100 venture capitalists and drew spontaneous applause for their Kinect based solution that looks set to transform physical therapy and in home rehabilitation.
They set a high bar that the team who followed lived up to. Each team has 7 minutes to explain who they are, why they’d just given up 3 months of their lives to be in Seattle on a beer and pizza diet and what they had created. The solutions ranged from healthcare, to retail and entertainment and almost all of them already have customers and/or funding in place. I’ve watched the so-called Kinect Effect from the beginning but this was a humbling experience to see what Kinect has enabled. I noticed a few Microsoft researchers in the room who are Kinect “hackers” themselves and though you’d imagine they’ve seen much of the potential of Kinect, they were impressed by what was being shown.
The accelerator program is supported by TechStars and their CEO and co-founder David Cohen was on hand to introduce a number of the teams. Here’s a quick run down of what we saw.
- Jintronix are looking to revolutionize the physical rehabilitation arena that currently costs the United States over $20bn per year. 60% of those undergoing rehab opt out of long term treatment due to accessibility, cost and engagement. Their system tackles this with clinical software combined with a Kinect sensor. The software is downloaded by a patient and can include clinically prescribed activities to help with rehabilitation. A clinician can remotely monitor progress and deliver customized routines to a patient.
- Kimetric use Kinect to provide retailers with insights about customers in a store. Their system is able to detect age, gender, height and size of a customer and then follow a customer through a store to see where they engage. The combination of knowing who is entering the store combined with where they go in store and what products they look at is delivered back to store owners in an analytics system that has already been deployed in retail. Given over 90% of people leave stores without buying anything, Kimetric may have a retail revolution on their hands.
- Zebcare were introduced by Microsoft’s Dr Bill (Crounse), and Zeb Kimmel explained their employment of Kinect for helping elders. In a nutshell, they’re using Kinect as a “smart radar” in homes that can alert family or doctors about abnormal patterns of movement or lack of movement in a home. Zebcare can track the movement of individuals with total privacy and allay the major fear many of them have about losing their home.
- I’ve blogged about Manctl before and I’m a huge fan of their 3D modeling with Kinect – today they added a 3D printer to their demo and were cranking out miniature torsos of guests. What I hadn’t grasped until today was how instrumental Nicolas and Nicolas of Manctl were in the early days of the Kinect Effect – they were one of the first teams in the world to “hack” Kinect, only 2 weeks after the product launched. Their current product, Skanect is reckoned to be 10-100x cheaper than existing alternatives for 3D scanning and is already being used in clothing, orthotics, prosthetics. The second market they’re seeking to take on is 3D modeling for architecture, prototyping etc.
- IKKOS has a US Olympian in hand to help explain their Kinect based motor learning system. CEO Sean Hutchison, a former USA Olympic Team coach explained how their system works and is already employed with elite athletes in many major sports. Charlie Houchin went from 44th to 4th on the US swim team in part due to the use of IKKOS. That same technology is now being applied in the field of rehabilitation with the Department of Veterans Adminstration who contacted Ikkos to ask them for help.
- Styku are seeking to tap in to the fact that 85% of consumers are unhappy with they way their garments fit. They explained that clothing designers are still making clothes for the for ideal body shape – which few of us have. Their system creates a detailed 3D model of the customer which can then help with choice of the best fitting clothes. That 3D model can be stored online and applied to a range of stores. Given that online clothing retail is the fastest growing segments of the market, yet 35% of merchandize is returned due to incorrect sizing, they may be on to something. One very neat trick they demonstrated was that with a 3D model of yourself, you can “try on” multiple sizes simultaneously on screen. Their application is already being used by custom suit retailers and given their family business, Tukatech, is responsible for the CAD models many leading high street fashion retailers use, they seem very well placed. In fact they teased that they’d just signed a major US retailer to a pilot program.
- Ubi are another team I have previously profiled and I love their ambition to turn any surface in to an interactive touch surface. They demonstrated this is many forms, both during the presentation and in the expo area. They showed everything from the window of a retailer to an 80-inch ‘screen in your pocket’. They’re already doing lots of work with Microsoft and I’m desperate to get their system setup in my house so I can have an 80-inch touchscreen Windows 8 system on my living room wall.
- NConnex are driven by the $64bn that is spent on household purchases every year in the US and the 30m people moving home. Their solution allows you to try furniture before you buy. With a 3D model of your home, you can insert new furniture in virtually, change the color scheme, wallpaper, lighting and more. If I were IKEA, I would be lapping this up. It’s a novel yet brilliant and easy to use solution. Unsurprisingly, they have interest from many of the leading players in homewares in the US.
- Voxon was the most unusual of the presentations but also one of the most intriguing. They’re looking to create a whole new field of 3D movies or “Voxons’ with the first consumer volumetric 3D display. They’re about to go live on Kickstarter to achieve this. I got a brief demo of their system on the show floor but need to explore further, so expect me to come back to this one.
- GestSure are perhaps the most well know of the startups in the accelerator program as their work rightly has lots of publicity already. They’re the team that pioneered the use of Kinect in the operating theater and have been deployed in Sunnybook Hospital in Toronto. What I enjoyed about their presentation is how well they explained the challenging environment they’re seeking to help with and how their solution is so cost effective yet scalable. It works with any existing operating room equipment and vitally, last week they secured FDA approval. With more than a year of trials at Sunnybrook under their belts, I think we can expect big things from GestSure.
- Freak’N Genius has a great presentation and were introduced by the legendary Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger. These guys are seeking to disrupt the entire animation industry by turning everyone in to an animator. I played with their system last month and it does allow incredibly easy creation of animated cartoons. Given they’ve already built an app that was downloaded by 11m people, and they have Ben on their side, I think they’re going places.
After several hours of listening to the teams talk, seeing their presentations and talking to others at the event I left with a smile on my face. The teams had wowed me, they’d surprised me and they’d shown me many new ways that Kinect could change the world. It really was a fantastic day and I can’t wait to hear about the funding I’m sure they’ll all have been offered following todays event. Personally, if I were an investor with some money to seed, I’d be putting my cash into at least half of the companies I saw today. Of course I have no track record of investing so take that with a pinch of salt but from the corridor conversations I heard as I left the building, some serious investors are likely to put their money where I’m putting my mouth.