Journal: UruSense

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Journal entry: 20 Nov 2017

Wilson Huang: With so little time remaining, we are working through our final few milestones, including software testing, and ensuring reliable communication between all our various bits of hardware. We recently pitched to a research commercialisation committee too, which was a good opportunity to do a ‘dry run’ before we face the judges. It provided some useful feedback on our system as well.

The Fresh Thinking workshop with NZTE was really useful – it helped us to realise that our venture doesn’t yet have a clear enough mission, which would certainly have made it easier to develop our business model! We also got some ideas around “What happens after C-Prize?” – In some instances, we were only focused on this competition, but now we’re looking further ahead, and it looks good. We’re feeling confident about bringing our idea to the judges!

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Journal entry: 7 Nov 2017

IMAGE: Us presenting the project to the Indonesia Ministry of Research

 Wilson Huang: Since our last entry, we’ve been busy getting the right person to do the software part of the project. Thankfully, we managed to find a very capable person who has lots of prior experience of working with start-ups – this is a huge bonus for UruSense, and has taken a lot of pressure off – both logistically and financially.

As the project manager, I can’t fail to be surprised by how much personal time the team is putting into this project. Just to quote someone we met at AUT Ventures  – “This is the best start up team, I like these guys”. Shifting to Basecamp (a project management and communication tool) has had a hugely positive impact on us, and it’s perfect for what we are trying to achieve.

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Journal entry: 24 Oct 2017

Wilson Huang: We’ve been focusing on software development in the past few weeks – mainly getting quotes and feedback from software developers. The costs involved in developing and testing software are much higher than we expected, so we’re stripping down some features to lower the cost, and to ensure that we have a functioning MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in time for Judging Day.

Other areas of focus are connecting the mobile application with the cloud, and providing actionable feedback to users. We’ve also recruited a new member to fill an area of expertise that the original team members lacked, so we’re very happy to have them on board. Bootcamp #2 went well – we made a few useful connections at AUT, including an innovation manager from a sport performance research group.

One thing that we’ve learned since our last entry is that, when it comes to research and development, everything requires twice as much time and money as you’ve budgeted!  

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Journal entry: 9 Oct 2017

IMAGE: Our journey over the last two weeks. Visited AUT textile lab, met a muscle simulation guy to talk about computer modelling. Dropped by at the IceHouse to chat with a successful wearable entrepreneur. Met with an IP attorney at AJ Park. Got feedback from fitness experts at AUT Millennium. Visited an advanced motion capture lab, and finished the week with a drink at AUT student bar.

Wilson Huang: The team has been focused on three strands of the project: 1. Computer simulation for validation purpose, 2. Textiles for wearable tech, and 3. Intellectual property protection.

A particular highlight was our meeting with the textile research group at AUT. We were impressed by the range of their capability and equipment, and more importantly, delighted by their willingness to assist us on this project.  

On the IP front, we’ve been surprised by the number of existing patents on wearable tech that are getting close to our idea. So, we’re now working with a patent attorney to scope out what we can legally protect, and this will feed in well with our upcoming IP strategy workshop. Our takeaway from a conversation with a successful start-up was that the wearable industry is competitive and fast-moving – so we’re determined to meet it head-on.  

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Journal entry: 27 Sep 2017

Wilson Huang: The team has been busy conducting interviews and surveys with the targeted market. We have collected some qualitative and quantitative data, the key for us is to analyse them and identify the trends. Furthermore, the team has begun focusing on IP protection, including having a strategy session with AJ Park. That has helped us realise just how important it is to protect key aspects of technology – especially in the wearables space.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of help we had received from people around us and within AUT. Everyone we’ve spoken to about our system has been interested in helping us and in learning more about the tech. And I think the team is now more realistic with the timeline and costs involved in the project 

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Journal entry: 13 Sep 2017

Wilson Huang: Over the past two weeks, the team has been focusing on feasibility and device desirability. That involved carrying out some interviews at a local gym – this has helped us to understand gym members’ frustration and motivation behind their fitness goals. This offered some interesting insights, with some more expected than others! In terms of feasibility, we have contracted two post-grads to do some validation testing. The protocol for this was finalised last week, the two post grads are now working hard! The initial testing phase took longer than we’d expected – we had to strip down some aspects of the design to make sure we’re ready for the final C-Prize presentation.

The messy lab-bench you can see in this week’s picture shows how hard we’re working to achieve our goals. This particular user’s dream is inspired by a very famous cartoon character!  For real-time testing, we fed our study subject with a bottle of milk every minute to fuel his muscles, as well a cappuccino to keep him awake. While he was thinking about becoming an iron man in one day, we worried about obtaining good signals from our sensor. One key thing we’ve learned since our last entry is to always talk to the end users. Discovering their latent needs is difficult but worth the effort.

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Journal ENTRY: 29 AUG 2017

Image: Us deep in conversation at the first C-Prize Bootcamp

Wilson Huang: Our wearable sensors aim to use novel technologies that can track multiple muscle groups to help ordinary people achieve their fitness goals. We combine the data collected with a series of databases and analytical algorithms, to generate feedback that is informative, useful, and motivational to the wearer.

One of the key things we’ve focused on since the first Bootcamp was developing a project plan to manage our time and effort between now and December. The planning can be categorised into three broad headings – the customer, system feasibility, and commercialisation – with us putting slightly more emphasis on the first two, for now. In terms of the customer need, we’re planning a public survey with several Auckland gyms, to help us understand gym-goers motivations and frustrations with regards to their fitness. We’ve also been getting some really useful feedback from relevant experts on the technical validation of the system. We’ve learned that this needs to be very well designed, so we’re taking the ‘Do it once, do it right’ approach.

Other commitments meant that we had previously been a bit behind on the project timeline. But we’re now fully back on board, and will be putting in a lot of effort into winning this competition!