Boston Hardware Startup Meetup #4

Boston Hardware Startup Meetup #4 at BOLT Accelerator was a blast.  Besides the copious amount of beer, wine, soft drinks and pizza, there were presentations from quite a few companies- the norm is three, but this month they squeezed in five!

There was a demo by Dash Robotics which is a company commercializing research on cardboard robots that came out of the bay area (Stanford/Berkley).  Their robots are pretty tough in terms of drop testing, and cheap enough that you don’t feel too bad if you step on them.  The kit is expected to be cheap, and bluetooth enabled.  I think these have a place in k-5 schools, especially now that kids have bluetooth enabled ipads and whatever.  Gotta start growing engineers while they are young!

The Peeko, from the Rest website

Rest Devices, from just down the street also appeared, and showed off their latest product, the http://www.restdevices.com/products/ (haha, like pico and peeaboo).  It is a onesie that harnesses the technology from their sleep shirt, which the company pivoted away from since it was a diagnostic device and required FDA approval.  The technology is some kind of iron on conductor.  They claim they can measure respiration, skin temperature, activity and body position with the sensors in it.  My guess is that the iron on conductor acts as a strain gauge or force-sensitive resistor to figure out respiration, and maybe body temperature with a PTC resistor (aka thermistor) or thermocouple made of two dissimilar materials laminated on each other.  Anyways, this onesie is networked seven ways to Sunday, and comes with an app that displays the information about your baby.  They will also be collecting data from your baby and doing things with it.  Who knows- maybe there will be a diaper change predictor or something.

Weartrons showed off the development of some kind of running or jogging device for those that cannot tear themselves from their tablets.  It synchs up the bobbing of your head/body with the text on your tablet.  It’s an unusual concept, but after trying to read or watch videos while on the treadmill, I can certainly see how it could be useful.  I would give them a picture here too, but they all of their pictures are of the product in use, and it would be so small in my layout that it would be hard to see!

Infinite Corridor Technology showed off their limberboard, which is basically an arduino (although they don’t call it that) clone on a flexible PCB.  I have seen this before, and I was underwhelmed by how the limberboard is priced and differentiated from other wearable electronics.  The only advantage it has over the seeeduino film is that it has patent pending zig-zags (which are quite clever) that allow some sections to stretch without putting any stress on the components.

The limberboard is clearly aimed at makers, but if they get their patent, what happens when you buy one?  Are you granted a license to the technology?  Can then use their flex connectors on your pcbs, or does the rest of your circuit have to be non-strechy?  A lot of IP questions come to mind, and as someone who makes things, that turns me off.  The board also seems to lack any way to mount it to anything or connect any parts to it, unlike the SEEED film.  Their crowdfunding campaign begins in a week, and it is priced at ~$60 instead of ~$10 for the film.  Maybe that campaign will provide some answers.

Onehundred has a particularly tricky name to get search results from, so they also are imageless.  They are employing a backwards, do-it-for-the-lulz approach to manufacturing.  Instead of designing something and seeking somewhere to build it, they are going out to local machine shops and manufacturing facilities and asking what can we make here.  It is a bizarre concept, but I think it is really cool.  They demoed some bottle opener/multitools that they had had machined locally.

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