OIST startups prepare to launch bold new products
Interested in developing your own tech startup in Okinawa? OIST is accepting applications for FY2022 Innovation Square Startup Accelerator Program until February 20th 2022. Sign up at the I Square website.
As part of a vision to develop Okinawa into an innovation hub, OIST supports promising entrepreneurs looking for a gateway into the Japanese market and beyond. One key initiative is the Innovation Square Startup Accelerator program, which is sponsored by Okinawa Prefecture. In 2020, two teams joined the program: Sage Sentinel from Canada and KanjuBot from Russia. Both teams chose OIST’s accelerator to help their startup launch in Japan, where they had identified a strong market fit for their respective technologies.
Sage Sentinel, a focus on the aging market
The World Health Organization has identified falls as the second most common cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide. This risk is significantly higher among the elderly. Even when a fall is not fatal, elderly people often suffer severe consequences, from hip fractures to head traumas, which can greatly reduce their quality of life.
While people can set up devices that detect a fall and send out a call for help, this technology does not help prevent falls and their negative outcomes.
Sage Sentinel was founded to fill this gap with their unique fall prevention sensing system.
Their ‘sentinel’, a small robotic device, uses infrared sensors and AI software to continuously monitor and analyze body movements in real time, and can predict a possible fall about three to five seconds before it happens. The system can then send out a range of early warnings – visual, auditory, and tactile. By providing a small window of time to avert the fall, the device is a game-changer in helping elderly people to avoid debilitating injuries.
Sage Sentinel Founders, Khashayar Misaghian, Jocelyn Faubert and Eduardo Lugo, were inspired to act after they saw elderly family members falling and becoming injured more often, drastically reducing their quality of life.
The team conceived the idea for the startup while conducting research on aging at the Laboratory of Psychophysics and Visual Perception at the University of Montreal in Canada.
Joining the accelerator program propelled the startup’s progress, thanks to the end-to-end support for business development and introductions to OIST’s vast global network of technology experts, corporate partners, and investors. The support has been especially meaningful in a year that has been challenging due to the pandemic,. As the program draws to an end, they now have created a working prototype of their product.
For Sage Sentinel, Japan is the ideal entry market. “Japan is the gateway to solving the global emerging aging crisis, as its population has the highest percentage of elderly people in the world. Moreover, Japanese senior care centers are among the most advanced and cutting-edge. The nearly 90,000 centers in the country search for, and welcome, new technologies. We are ready to enter this important market and improve senior quality of life all over the world,” said Khash.
KanjuBot, a focus on the chatbot market
Yet another innovative startup looking to launch their product in Japan is KanjuBot, an AI company that aims to transform the way computers and humans interact. The team, comprising Oleg Nikitin, Olivia Lukyanova and Alex Kunin, who met at the Russian Academy of Sciences, is building an engine for chatbots that can communicate in multiple ways, including through audio, texts, and images, with more natural-sounding language.
While current chatbot engines use statistical connections to respond to users, KanjuBot’s core uses a next-generation AI model that tries to mimic the natural neural networks found in the brain. This type of model dramatically improves the quality of the experience for chatbot users, as it can put the user's interactions, and his or her emotions, into the correct context and can maintain sensible dialogues.
KanjuBot's engine could be used for a wide range of applications across different industries. Currently, the team is preparing for a pilot program in the telecom or banking sector.
For KanjuBot, working with OIST allowed them to connect with cutting edge researchers in this area. “OIST is a leading center in computational neuroscience, and our product grows out of this area. We are happy to collaborate with OIST because of the unique approach and experience offered by their accelerator, in the form of knowledge, support, and funding. We are thrilled to be part of such an excellent place for deep tech early-stage startups,” said Oleg.
Both startups are looking for the right partners to bring their innovations to life. You can contact them through their respective website (https://sagesentinel.com/ and https://kanju.tech/) or via OIST Innovation Square, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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