One of my favorite programs on television these days is Shark Tank on ABC. Having co-founded a tech company during my own career, I can totally relate to the elation and anxiety that is part of the startup lifestyle. I guess that’s why I had so much fun yesterday afternoon when I had the opportunity to participate in Microsoft’s Kinect Accelerator Demo Day.
Thirteen weeks ago, 11 companies were invited to come to Microsoft to nurture ideas and solutions they had under development using Kinect sensor technology. These companies were among more than 500 companies from around the world that had competed to participate in the program. The 11 selected winners in the Microsoft Accelerator received access to Microsoft’s resources and technical specialists with seed funding provided by TechStars. Each finalist also had access to mentors from Microsoft and other companies who provided advice and expertise on how to grow and launch a startup. It all came to a climax yesterday when each company was given six short minutes to give their pitch before an audience of business executives, investors, and tech fans on the Microsoft campus in Redmond.
The worldwide interest in new technology solutions using Kinect for Xbox 360 and Kinect for Windows is almost beyond belief. And, these solutions go way beyond where things started with Kinect – around games and gaming. In fact, there couldn’t have been more diversity among the companies and ideas I saw yesterday at the Kinect Accelerator Demo Day. Of the 11 companies, I was extremely pleased that four of them focused on solutions aimed at health and healthcare. They were Jintronix, a low cost, home-based system that leverages motion capture technology for personalized rehabilitation; IKKOS, focused on neuroscience technologies to teach sport and rehabilitation faster and more efficiently than traditional methods; GestSure, a company providing touch-less interface solutions for sterile control of computers in the operating room; and ZebCare, The first image-free movement monitor for seniors. Other companies in the Accelerator program included Freak’n Genius, with a simple animation solution; Kimetric, integrating consumer profiling behavior analytics and smart interactive displays for retailers; NCONNEX, that let’s you try furniture before you buy; MANCTL, providing 3D capture technology for everyone; Styku, helping consumers find clothing that fits by scanning themselves at home or in-store; Ubi, a plug and play solution that turns any surface into a touchscreen; and VOXON, with a “holographic” display kit that lets you see and control 3D content captured from the Kinect.
During the Demo Day event, I had the honor of introducing ZebCare to the audience. I had served as a mentor to ZebCare during the Accelerator program. ZebCare, founded by Dr. Zeb Kimmel, uses Kinect’s radar-like capabilities to securely and privately monitor the activity of elderly senior citizens or the disabled who may live independently, but need the reassurance that family or friends are looking over them. Zebcare is also doing work that may one day help predict falls in the elderly or provide early warning of diseases that affect neuromotor function.
I must say I was totally impressed by every company that presented during the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator Demo Day event. As I listened to each company do their six minute pitch, it was all I could do to sit on my checkbook. I could have easily put up all of my retirement savings to invest in these companies. Of course, I know better than that, but the temptation was definitely at a fever pitch. And think about the possibilities from the other 490+ companies out there who are also working on innovative uses for Kinect and didn’t get into the Accelerator program! The Kinect Effect is alive and well. What will you do next with Kinect?
You can learn more about the Demo Day event and each of the companies that participated by reading Steve Clayton’s excellent post on TechNet. You’ll also find Demo Day photos and some great videos of the event on the Kinect for Windows website.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft