”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, four start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we choose the week’s winner.
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.
Mimo makes programming child’s play
Perhaps the biggest barrier to learning how to program is that it’s quite technical in nature. Tedious teaching methods that combine elaborate sequencing with abstract explanations are usually not the favorite method for children – nor adults – to learn a new skill. People are naturally more likely to grab their smartphone than an informatics textbook. Somehow that’s also slightly ironic; learning a digital skill with a stuffy analog medium.
But what if you can learn programming step-by-step via an app that turns it into a fun and challenging game? This is what the Austrian app Mimo does. Think of it as a bit like the language teacher in app form from Duolingo, but one with programming languages instead. The app is free to download for everyone. Very handy for people who want to use their spare time stemming from the coronavirus to learn a new skill.
Robots that don’t behave like robots
The stereotypical image of a robot has been more or less the same over the course of the last century. Whether it is the Robot from Lost In Space, Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator, or C3PO from Star Wars, they don’t exactly come across as human. And their motor skills are, well, a bit like … a robot. Still, we are a few decades ahead nowadays where technological developments are concerned. Robotics hasn’t been standing still all this time.
Swedish start-up Fuhat Robotics develops so-called social robots that have even mastered the very complex facial expressions of human beings. In time, these kinds of robots will have to do the work that humans don’t want to do. What does the Furhat robot look like? This is up to the user to decide because the robots’ faces can be configured according to their personal preferences. As in, whatever personality, gender, age, or skin tone they choose.
From basement waste to power generator
In order to make the world more sustainable, two important things basically need to happen. We should recycle our waste more efficiently. We need to become less dependent on the energy that fossil fuels pump into the atmosphere. In this respect, the German Autonomous Energy System kills two birds with one stone. They came up with a micropower plant that converts commercial waste in the basement of that building back into electricity.
This way of generating energy is not yet especially lucrative for private households. But for companies with a constants waste stream and energy needs, such as hospitals, retirement homes, restaurants, and hotels, the technology might be extremely interesting. This turns them into a kind of circular recycling system and saves on both electricity and waste disposal costs.
UV-Smart: the enlightened dishwasher for medical equipment
In the 19th century when Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis came up with the theory that complications in medical procedures were linked to proper hygiene, he was dismissed as crazy at first. Since then, we do know what bacteria are and what nasty things they can cause. This is why optimal hygiene plays a fundamental role in every hospital.
Cleaning medical equipment is rather specialized and meticulous work. But it can also now be done with a machine. The UV-dishwasher from the Dutch start-up UV-Smart uses very powerful radiation that ensures that any residual DNA of micro-organisms is destroyed. It sounds slightly unsafe. On the contrary – fortunately, this machine is sealed, so it is not harmful to the cells of whoever operates it. The UV-Smart is portable and can administer a dose of disinfectant UV light to endoscopes and surgical masks within one minute without the need for any extra training.
CC Diagnostics – Self-test for cervical cancer
Although the editor on duty as a man obviously finds it difficult to judge, he’s perfectly able to imagine that it’s not exactly pleasant for a woman to sit legs all a-straddle in front of her doctor for an awkward and possibly painful internal examination of her private parts.
This procedure is carried out, for example, during examinations for cervical cancer. Which can be treated very well provided that you catch it on time. Caused by a virus, the best way to spot this cancer at an early stage is via pap smears and biopsies. However, these are quite time-consuming and painful procedures. The Dutch start-up CC Diagnostics thought that this could be done a lot faster without having to undergo an unpleasant clinical examination.
The test they devised requires remarkably little effort. Nor is an appointment with a gynecologist needed and it puts an end to the oft-dreaded pap smear. This test goes by the name of Methica and should eventually replace the existing PAP test currently used by the Dutch government in the population screening program. At the moment, the bar for women to participate in this test seems to be staying quite high given the disappointing number of respondents. Despite the prevention-is-better-than-cure intention, providing tissue samples or making an appointment with a doctor is still difficult for many women.
Yet it is of vital importance that lots of women do get themselves tested. Innovation does not necessarily entail groundbreaking new technology. Sometimes the genius just lies in simplifying an existing idea. Steve Jobs proved this with the iPhone, for example. Not so much a trailblazing new technology, but rather something that made the smartphone more accessible. Will CC Diagnostics also bring about a revolution like that? Probably not as huge in scope, yet the principle is the same. Solving a problem by consulting the user. Practical solutions like this always make us very happy. Start-up-of-the-Week-happy! Congratulations CC Diagnostics!