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”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturdays, we always choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday.

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality, and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.

Femly – Fuss-free video calls

In the wake of the corona pandemic, more video calls are being made than ever before. Setting up this kind of connection is a piece of cake for young people, but for seniors who are not used to smartphones, apps, logging in, and selfie cameras, it can be quite daunting. Try explaining remotely to your grandmother who has early-onset dementia which buttons she has to press to see her grandchildren.

At the Dutch start-up Rementis, they felt that this could be simpler. They came up with a television screen that they call Femly which is child’s play, even for the digital illiterate amongst us. The idea is simple; they supply a TV screen with dedicated software and a built-in camera. This makes video calling no more difficult than picking up a telephone. Even if grandma has Alzheimer’s or dementia, this should work. Another advantage? The large screen, which means that staring at a small smartphone with reading glasses propped up on your nose will become a thing of the past.

Plasmics – Creating stuff in your own living room

Although 3D printers are slowly but surely gaining in popularity, they’re still quite a complex lot. The technology is far from user-friendly. Plus, there is a lot involved if you want to make different individual parts from a variety of materials. Conjuring up a functioning lamp from a 3D printer requires a lot of prior knowledge, homework, and equipment.

That’s a shame! Because the possibilities of 3D printers are, in theory, endless. German start-up Plasmics wants to change this by simplifying rather than renewing the technology. How? By using their own universal home printer that can process multiple materials and assemble the parts themselves. Why would you import stuff all the way from China if you can just get it out of a printer right here? This way you not only get to act like an artisan in your own living room, but you also minimize the need for environmentally damaging container ships.

PHI Factory – From an office building that pollutes the environment to a circular ecosystem

The word ‘sustainability’ has by now become a firmly entrenched cliché. But seriously, what is sustainability? Circular business premises – if it’s up to the Dutch duo behind PHI-Factory. They came up with a service that makes this feasible. The most important guiding principles? Reduce waste, lower the ecological footprint, and get employees involved in the process.

According to the founder, this can even be done with the mundane things of everyday life. Take a kettle, for example, when you want to make a cup of tea. You might boil one and a half liters of water when you only need a quarter of that. The rest disappears down the sink without a second thought. That’s not only a waste of water but of electricity too. This may seem like a drop in the ocean, yet if all British people – who do love a good cup of tea – would be more aware of this, then all of England could be lit up from the savings that are made.

Localie – A community platform full of locals

For holidaymakers who want to get to know another country, or for students who are planning to spend a year abroad, there is someone – almost declared a saint – who they can turn to for a slice of real cultural authenticity – the local! Locals know these interesting places better than anyone else. Because, after all, they have been living there for years. This kind of knowledge can be quite interesting for other people. Especially if you manage to get together a whole online community of like-minded people.

Localie has designed a platform that connects locals with each other. This creates an enormous wealth of information in 67 different metropolitan cities. The ‘local’ can sign up as a guide, a language teacher, or as a welcome committee for an extra bit of pocket money. And the user gets a unique one-on-one guide for any destination. Why should you cram yourself into a tour bus with dozens of others to get through a stereotypical group program? Millennials are certainly not as keen on that as their parents are.

Braincontrol – a key for prisoners of their own body

Locked-in syndrome is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a human being. While your body is completely paralyzed, your mind is still fully functioning. Making contact with the outside world is out of the question, so even signaling that you are ‘still present’ is impossible without the help of tools. This sounds like a nightmare and one that doesn’t end when the alarm clock goes off early in the morning. For these patients, it is an awful reality. Do you think the lockdown is annoying? That’s nothing compared to being locked-in.

Italian start-up Liquidweb has come up with a way to let these people speak without using any muscles. Their Braincontrol technology transmits movements that a patient imagines with their minds to a robot that can move forwards, backward, left, right, up, and rotate. Using these six basic movements, the basis of a language is created so that a patient is no longer on their own. This enables them to talk to their loved ones, operate their own wheelchair, and even send e-mails. Sounds like science fiction? Well, it isn’t!

But there’s more. A sophisticated piece of machine learning can even translate specific character traits into movements. That s a pretty nifty feat of robotics and neuropsychology that can dramatically improve life for these patients. Bound to cost a few hundred thousand euros, right? Nowhere near that actually. For the very reasonable price of €300 per month, this fabulous tech of the future is already a reality. Our editors were therefore exceptionally unanimous this week – our Start-up of the Week trophy goes to these brilliant life improvers!