Journal: Uri-Go

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Journal entry: 12 Nov 2017

IMAGE: Brendon comparing data sets, and Mike’s tools of the trade. 

Mike Brown: Brendon has been focused on two main tasks in this past fortnight – troubleshooting some technical anomalies we discovered with our hardware, and gathering more data by scanning the bladder with our technology (starting with full, then in incremental stages of empty). We have also been busy writing and compiling resources for our final presentation. 

Our first 90+ data sets were filled with noise that we couldn't make sense of. By seeking advice from one of our hardware suppliers, we managed to troubleshoot the system, and with the addition of a few components and some changes in settings, we were able to clear most of the anomalies. Pleasingly, we now have results that clearly differ between full and empty bladder states, helping us prove feasibility. 

We’ve had great feedback from those testing the system too, with the majority reporting that it’s so comfortable, they’d forgotten they were wearing it!  With a solid collection of evidence to support our feasibility and desirability claims, we are feeling good about sharing Uri-Go with the judges. 

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Journal entry: 27 Oct 2017

IMAGE: Brendon and Frank running tests

Mike Brown: Last week, Frank kindly allowed us to take over his medical rooms, where we spent 3 hours scanning ourselves with our technology. We also did some ultrasound measurements during a variety of bladder fullness states, and now have 90 datasets to process.

There are a few anomalies in our data, so we’ve purchased some additional bits and pieces to try and rectify that. With a challenge as complex and technical as ours, things like this are to be expected. We’re also now receiving feedback from users who are testing various wearable mounting methods. The feedback is promising, with many users claiming to forget the device is even there.

On reflection, Brendon and I are really pleased at how efficient this whole development process has been for us. We're a small, agile start-up, and have been able to produce a considerable amount of work in a short period of time.

The other thing we’ve been working on is our presentation for the final pitch to the judges. The presentation workshop at the second Bootcamp was particularly valuable for that, and it really made us think about the story we want to tell.

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Journal entry: 12 Oct 2017

IMAGE: Squeezing every last drop of time before boarding the flight to Auckland. Sewing alterations to form factor belts nearly ended in divorce. Seen here with a professional who came to me and my wife's rescue!

Mike Brown: In the run-up to Bootcamp #2, we’ve been juggling lots of activities, including sewing! After some initial feedback, we’ve altered form factor belt prototypes, to make them more comfortable. Thanks to some new testing guidelines we’ve developed, we also now have a much better handle on their performance.

Signal processing has been a real challenge though, and one that has taken us much longer to get to grips with. Thinking longer-term too, we’ve been exploring where we sit in terms of IP. One thing high on our to-do list is further investigate a Chinese patent that we’ve found – we’re in the process of getting that translated.

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Journal entry: 1 Oct 2017

IMAGE: Brendon making artificial human tissue, and Frank testing an adhesive.

Mike Brown: These two weeks have gone by very quickly, as we’ve been pulling lots of important threads on our project – first up, we’ve been developing a user survey for urologists. Thanks to a contact at a local clothing company, we also now have a dozen wearable pouches – they’ll hold the mock electronics package that we’ve developed for user testing.

We’ve been looking at materials too. 3M in the USA have been really helpful, and the medical adhesive samples that we ordered from them arrived ahead of schedule. And, very excitingly, we made fake human tissue! Artificial skin, fat and muscle are all important tools to help us determine how well our system performs.

And finally, the numbers – we’ve been doing a lot of maths to make sense of the ridiculous amount of data we have to clarify. And we learned much more about our development kit and the software that runs it. 

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Journal entry: 20 Sept 2017

IMAGE: Brendon receiving another pieces of the jigsaw before testing. 

Mike Brown: The last two weeks have been focussed on physically assembling our design, and testing our simulations. We’ve also continued our user interviews and our materials research for the wearable form is also ongoing. 

We were delighted to have receive some components from our supply partners – they were clearly manufactured to a high standard. The first round of physical testing provided results that were even better than we’d expected, which definitely made up for us being slightly behind schedule otherwise!

A urologist we know was at a conference in Europe and saw a competing company's offering. She kindly took images of their product for us to view. We concluded that their offering, which uses a different technology to ours, would not be desirable for the market we are targeting, based on our user feedback – it seems much too large and the method of attachment is not ideal. It is also likely to be rather expensive to purchase, so it hasn’t put us off our stride!

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Journal entry: 5 Sept 2017

Image: Brendon and Andy working on simulations giving the computer a workout!

Mike Brown: The past two weeks have been very much ‘business as usual’ – we remain focussed on the technical challenge of building our prototype. Our PCB design is nearly complete, and we’ve now sent some key materials away for machining. We also met with some colleagues who have offered to assist with prototyping, which will be really helpful. Another highlight was the discovery of a second development kit which will give us more technical options to explore (if required), and will reduce the ‘per unit’ manufacturing cost when the time comes.

The other half of our effort is on continuing to gather user insights – after a dozen half-hour phone calls to potential users, we definitely feel that we know more about their needs, and the design expectations and desirability of the finished product. Those conversations also highlighted a secondary application of our tech that we hadn’t been previously aware of. 

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journal entry: 22 Aug 2017

Image: The importance of team communication and alignment of vision is crucial for start-up success. 

Mike Brown: Our wearable will support those people who cannot sense how full their bladder is. That includes anyone with a spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, or any other number of conditions. In my case, it can lead to embarrassment, but it also puts me at risk of contracting dangerous infections. That makes me both an end-user and a team member on this project, which is fairly unusual. But a conversation with one of the other finalists at the first C-Prize Bootcamp highlighted something we had been missing. While the system is in development, we should also include those people that will sell or recommend it, so that we can understand how they will describe it and what their use case is. This competition is fantastic in its collaborative nature.

Alongside considering that aspect of the project, we’ve been very busy since reaching the finals – between running technical simulations and carrying out materials research, we’ve been setting up a team workflow tool, finding the right IP partner, and connecting with additional experts. The Bootcamp gave us the opportunity to further validate our idea, meet industry experts, build team energy, and get focused on our plan. We also received a key piece of technology for our prototype development this week, and it has tested well in a basic application. The only slight downside was discovering the cost of one component for our prototype – it was a bit of a shock, but it shouldn’t be a game changer.