By Brandon Gillet
Expect to hear more from the young innovators in vastly different fields who captured prizes at uOttawa’s Startup Weekend in November. The Gazette spoke to two uOttawa teams about their winning ideas.
For intelliMED Solutions (originally called Safety Net) – overall winner of Startup Weekend, an event designed to connect student entrepreneurs – the initial inspiration was the Syrian crisis. The idea, according to team leader Alex Steeves, was to use existing smartphones and wristbands to create an integrated emergency alert system.
“If something happened, it would make you ‘check in’ on Facebook or other social media platforms,” Steeves says. “And if you didn’t check in, it would alert your friends and family that something was wrong.”
But a system that relies on wireless service proved unfeasible for many parts of the world. So the team decided to create a purpose-built wristband to help staff in an emergency room or clinic track patients’ vital signs and respond more quickly to crises such as cardiac arrests.
“This was inspired by stories of people dying in the emergency room, having been unattended for hours without anyone noticing,” Steeves says. “This system would alert the triage nurse of a sharp change in vitals.
“The idea is to build a system that goes a step beyond monitoring heart rate, as Fitbit does – and, as technology progresses, to integrate additional vital metrics such as blood pressure. In addition, it will be on a much more powerful and secure network, so you can sign in at the ER and then go get a coffee — it will track your signs up to a kilometre or two away.”
In addition to winning in the overall category, the team won in the mobile health category, receiving $1,500 in prize money as well as assistance from lawyers and other professionals.
Plans are now in the works to partner with a major company to use existing smart-ER technology, but the team intends to build the hardware — the smart wristbands — itself. Now, intelliMed hopes to win a place in uOttawa’s annual Startup Garage to advance its system, which a clinic in Alberta has already expressed interest in testing.
An app to conquer fear
Ever felt incapacitated by anxiety before giving a presentation? The VirtuaLens team wants to keep the sweat from your brow as you get ready to nail that speech. Its app uses virtual reality technology to simulate an engaged audience, helping people improve their public speaking skills as they practise their text, build their confidence and overcome their nerves.
“VirtuaLens offers a variety of scenarios, such as giving a talk at a conference or a toast at a wedding,” says team leader Elad Tzemach. “It’s meant to give you a realistic sense of what it’s like to be there.”
Sophisticated speech analysis software triggers simulated audience feedback, with the virtual crowd reacting appropriately to any speech hesitation or change in tone, speed or volume.
“We think it’s a great way to help people overcome their fear of public speaking, which is often cited as the number one fear in the world,” Tzemach says. “We’re hoping this could eliminate the need for public speaking coaches.”
The VirtuaLens team, which took home a $500 prize in the “makers” category, is also hoping to gain a coveted spot in this summer’s Startup Garage and take its idea onto a bigger stage.