Robotic Feeding Arm
Class: 2013 Summer Accelerator
Robotic Feeding Arm is an assistive technology product that gives independence to those who rely on others for feeding assistance.
I delivered my final pitch for the Summer Accelerator on 8/28. I am making my slides available to those interested in seeing the presentation: Power Point Slides (note that formatting might be slightly off if you’re not viewing the presentation in power point).
Viewing my power point slides you might notice they aren’t eye catching or chock full of information. This was my intention because I was pitching to judges, not lay people. I also wanted to create a story told by me not my slides. It’s true that you want to get people to like you as well as your business, so I wanted a more direct connection between me and the judges without relying on the content of my slides. Having the Robotic Feeding Arm demo to open my pitch validated my pitch and validated myself as an engineer and visionary. This coupled with the emotional impact and social good of this device set the stage for a more intimate presentation.
Slide by Slide
Video may have been taken during the presentations however I do not have direct access to it. So, as a way of recapping my time through the Summer Accelerator, I would like to give a brief explanation of each slide.
I started my presentation out with introducing myself as the inventor of RFA and describing my business in one sentence (this was a necessary thing to do throughout the accelerator). For those interested, my one sentence is as follows: “The Robotic Feeding Arm is an assistive technology device that gives independence to those relying on feeding assistance”. This sentence does three things:
- Names the product
- Defines it
- Describes its purpose
Not sure if these three things are an ‘industry standard’ method, but I found it apropos.
Using Robotic Feeding Arm
After my introduction, I demonstrated RFA by explaining the steps a nurse or home care assistant would take to setup RFA and have the user engage the robot. This consisted of having RFA setup ready to scoop m&m’s from the rotating bowl.
Background and Motivation
I felt it important to explain the background of my device and the motivation that drove me to create it. I’ve been asked this many times, so it’s a question on many peoples mind and it also bridges the emotional side of the device. Reading the slide, you get the idea of my motivation and notice that I tie in the accelerator at this point by stating the broad goal I had of figuring out ‘What do I do now?’
The next two slides are more numbers oriented to drive home the necessity of RFA. Most people already at this point have an image in their head of the need for this device because people usually know of someone that is in a nursing home or heard of a tragedy that cost someone their independence. The first of the two I used to explain that there is no device like RFA being used and that people are still being hand fed. The reason is that similar concept devices are way too expensive or just not on the market. Unfortunately, stats show that people with a disability make less income on average than the national average. Slide 2 of 2 explains the need for RFA based on total number of people that could benefit from it. Also, sustainability is of no concern due to people living longer into their senior years and because of the baby boomers reaching their senior years.
So why is being hand fed not a solution to this problem of dependence? I’ll leave the slide to explain this, but unfortunately what might be seen as a task of care can quickly turn into a chore of stress.
Of course, the solution is RFA. RFA will most importantly bring independence to those relying on feeding assistance. This isn’t just a matter of independence but also a matter of the user getting adequate time to eat a full meal. RFA will also redefine how the $16,000 of a nurse’s time is being used.
On this slide I talked about how in the first meeting with my mentor, I realized that starting a company to sell RFA (my original long-term goal) is unrealistic. If nothing else convinces you, the fact that I just don’t want to start a company to sell RFA should. I needed to create a new long-term goal, licensing the technology to an assistive technology manufacturer. This will open me up to do what I want to do, invent.
Now the presentation is very personal because I’ve taken to the focus from RFA to myself. I explained each stage by giving a rough timeline and path to completion. Now the judges know what I want to do as an entrepreneur/inventor and how I aim to accomplish my goals.
My Next Step
Here I made my ask by listing where the prize money would go if I were to win a portion. I noted that the items listed on this page are going to help me accomplish my next goals.
I felt the presentation went very smooth and could not have asked for a better run. The demo went well (during the pitch practice a week before, a driver issue with the USB ports on my laptop crept up forcing me to demo it manually…) and the audience was very impressed. The judges asked some great questions (IP, user interfacing, have I talked to AT manufacturers, has the arm ever broke, etc...) and also offered to positive feedback owning to the fact that it is a great product.
The awards ceremony is in one week (9/10) and I cannot wait to celebrate the accomplishments I’ve made through this summer. If I win money I will spend it exactly on the items I listed on my last slide including securing my IP. If I do not win any money, then I will continue to pursue my goals and seek other means of capital.
If you are interested in continuing to follow the progress of RFA, please follow my blog that I will continue to update once this one is done: http://roboticfeedingarm.blogspot.com/
Online Presence Tools
The following list contains resources that I used to create my online presence:
Wix is a website ‘drag n drop’ style creator. Great for fast building, good-look’n websites. I used to code the HTML/CSS myself but time is money and I’m not getting paid to build my own website. There’s a free membership, however if you have even $100 in your budget for a website it’s worth it (more bandwidth and storage). It has an array of ‘widgets’ you can use to link social media and other great tools such as mobile view.
One caveat, Wix doesn’t offer an email address with your domain name. For example, if I bought www.roboticfeedingarm.com with Wix, I wouldn’t have the ability to create an email address that is email@example.com. Now, at the time I purchased their hosting, they were going to give me a domain free. Basically, if you don’t care about the email address then do everything through Wix, if you do care about using an email address that matches your website then do a cost analysis of purchasing the domain from GoDaddy because they offer one free email address.
Pretty sure you know what Go Daddy is… they offer many services, most famously known for domain purchasing and web hosting. I had already purchased my domains through GoDaddy so I received one free email address and was able to link the domain through to Wix. While on this subject, it's a good idea to think about purchasing additional domains beyond the typical .com. For example, I purchased all the .com, .org, and .net's. Beyond that, depending on your business, if it's a product like mine you might think of purchasing the plural form (roboticfeedingarms) or adding 'the' in front (theroboticfeedingarm)... just some advice I've heard.
Name Find is a great tool for researching domain and social media availability. It also uses a useful algorithm that searches for related (not just adding a number or random word) keywords to use in your domain. For example, I did a search for ‘Robotic Feeding Arm’ and all the availability for Facebook, Twitter, etc showed up. Based on those three keywords NameFind also thought I’d be interested in FeedingDevices.com which I had no idea was available… and was, and did buy it.
Kool Moves is a program that I have been using for years, and it’s still being updated to stay current with changing trends (e.g. flash to html5). I used it to draw my logo and animate it. Check out the website to see all the useful things you can do with it, I’ve used it to create full flash websites, flyers, interactive programs, short animated clips, etc…
Google’s blogging service, Blogger, basically speaks for itself… it’s a blogging platform. I did use Word Press before blogger but switched* to Blogger since it had better integration with Wix (however I soon took the blog off from my website and just linked it so I could go back to Word Press). I do not have a lot of experience with Blogger yet, but I won’t go back to Word Press because Blogger being a Google service will integrate through Google+ and probably has better SEO.
*Kind of off topic but someone may find this helpful: When I switched from Word Press to Blogger I was afraid of losing all my old posts and I can imagine people with years of blogging wouldn’t switch based on that one idea. Turns out you can export blog content into a file like XML and then upload to another service that parses the data and re-creates your blog posts to the new service. Google this topic and there will be more helpful information on it, I just wanted to make people aware of the idea.
This will be quick because I actually haven’t used Hoot Suite yet, but I’ve heard good things and it’s free to get started. Essentially, it’s a social media management tool where you can manage all your platforms, see analytics, and schedule messages/posts/tweets.
Another service I haven’t used but is widely used, iStock Photo. This service provides royalty free professional media content like photo’s, videos, and even audio.
If you want a free option try Google Image Search. If you do an advanced search, (Google > Images > (search something) > (click on gear) Advanced Search) you can search images by 'usage rights' (if you click on ‘usage rights’ Google provides a page that defines each option).
Robotic Feeding Arm – Dracut TV
I had the privilege recently to appear on the Friends of Kevin TV show. The segment will be available on the Dracut TV website under the On-Demand section; I will link it to this blog when it’s available. I decided to include the outline for the interview in this blog as a way of updating everyone on my current status.
1. What is the Robotic Feeding Arm?
The Robotic Feeding Arm (RFA) is an assistive technology device that gives independence to those relying on feeding assistance.
2. What inspired you to start it?
I built the first robotic feeding arm for my capstone project at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. From seeing the positive response and opportunity that come from this, I decided to pursue it as a business.
3. Why is there a need for this locally? Nationally?
The need RFA satisfies is two-fold. First, there’s a need and desire for independence in situations where someone has a debilitating circumstance relying on someone else for daily living activities. RFA gives that independence by allowing the user to control when and how they eat. Also, time is a valuable resource especially for nurses, so instead of hand feeding their patients, they can tend to other tasks.
4. What stage are you with the device? When do you hope it will be public one day?
The first prototype is being tested at the Kennedy Day School in Brighton MA. One of the bigger engineering feats is creating the user interfaces, so there’s a lot of attention in development on that aspect. Once I’m happy with the design and have done enough testing with a varied population to determine who exactly will benefit the most from it and what the robot will look like at that point, I’ll then seek out a partnership or licensing agreement and hopefully have it manufactured.
5. Why did you join the Sandbox Accelerator Program?
I studied electrical engineering and robotics at UML, so after developing RFA I was stuck without the help of a business mind. The Sandbox claimed that their accelerator program, which is a 3 month long intensive program geared to giving early stage entrepreneurs the opportunity through networking, classes, and seed capital to develop their idea beyond their own means, could give me the tools to develop my Robotic Feeding Arm with a business mind.
6. What do you hope to get out of the 12 week experience?
Now that we are coming up on the 12th week, I can say that the accelerator program has definitely helped me determine the direction I need to be heading in. I think one of the most important tools I’ve gained from this is networking. With that being said, I’ve made many amazing contacts through this program that I hope will last after the 12th week.
7. What is the long-term goal of your venture?
The long-term goal is to see the robot, in whatever stage it is in years down the road, being used in hospitals, nursing homes, and wherever it can give independence to those relying on feeding assistance. I hope that eventually through user feedback and engineering iterations, the device can satisfy the needs for people with varying disabilities in the physical domain.
8. How can people find out more about the Robotic Feeding Arm?
I created a website to be used as a source for general information and networking. So, if people visit www.RoboticFeedingArm.com they can find additional content and it’s an easy way to get in touch with me through email, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Here is the logo I came up with for the Website and business cards. There's certainly a concept that exists in society where people (especially older generations) are afraid of robotics maybe not in the scary sense as much as the comprehension or fear of technology. The logo despite having a robotic looking arm on it, tends to have a friendly almost cartoon aspect to it. RFA isn't a device to wow people by its flashy looks or advanced AI, but it is a tool that can assist people in an area they struggle in. I wanted to present RFA in a positive, friendly, and simple light.
After owning the domain names (.org, .net etc...) for a while, RFA finally launched the official website! The website can be found at www.RoboticFeedingArm.com, easy enough! Okay, so how does this tie into the Summer Accelerator? Weeks back we had a social media session (see blog post Online Presence) where the speaker’s talked about the giants: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc... The main question for RFA was, 'which social media does this technology belong in, or given a social media platform, how could RFA best exist on it?'
Best Platforms for RFA and Why
- Business networking, less personal and more like a very dynamic resume. Read earlier posts like 'Pitching' to see who I am targeting.
- Allows for a business page that I can link to my personal page.
- Stats and metrics are given for page activity.
- Concise URL, easy to remember (www.roboticfeedingarm.com)
- Static content
- The purpose of the website is to contain information about the device such as what it does, how it does it, who it helps, how to contact RFA, and network (link media).
- Link to a blog
- Dynamic content
- Updates with all things RFA from technical entries explaining awesome technology to simple photo graphs of the device.
- Link throughout to the website
- Keep people engaged
If you do visit my website, you'll notice at the time of this writing that I am still using Facebook despite it not being my target platform. The truth is that it is still a great networking tool that keeps people updated with content. If social media becomes a time-suck and you're nervous about maintaining a myriad of platforms (because the worst thing to do is start a service and not update it, no one wants to use or buy a service whose Facebook page hasn’t been updated for 2 months), then there are services out there to help you manage. My next post will be a resources link post that will include such a service.