I-Corps, changing the world one pivot at a time.
While I suspect you’re familiar with the NSF, it’s less likely you’ve heard of the I-Corps, and you also probably aren’t familiar with pivot in the context I will soon explain. Recapping the first several posts:
- COSY was born in Sept-2012
- A little less than 3 years later, we piloted revolutionary new technology which will make complex indoor environments more accessible for everyone, especially those who are blind or visually impaired
- Along the way, we have focused on technology for immersive 3D mapping and an app for beaconless localization and navigation
Those are the highlights and you might guess there were a few twists and turns along the way. That’s where the NSF, I-Corps, and Pivots come into play. Just in case you’re not familiar with the acronym, NSF is the National Science Foundation. Quoting from their site, they are an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…”. The NSF developed the I-Corps (Innovation Corps) concept to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research. COSY is a proud graduate of the program. Key takeaways include:
- We were expected to interview 100 potential customers. These interviews occurred before any sort of prototype had been created to find out what potential customers needed, rather than building something clever that no one wanted.
- We received a modest NSF grant and it came with “strings”. You were expected to complete the program or you had to return the balance of your grant. The mentors could be challenging and people did leave the program but not us!
- Finally, we learned about pivots. These are critical junctures when customer interviews or other factors drive you to revise your concept, sometimes dramatically.
While we continue to pursue the original goal of beaconless indoor localization and navigation, we are also under contract to develop a suite of robots which will conduct immersive mapping of indoor settings. As explained in the 28-Jan-16 post, retailers and other facility managers will be able to use these maps to optimize layouts and inventory management. Seems like a pivot but these detailed maps will let someone who is blind shop independently. If you don’t understand how important that is, just ask someone who is blind. Three and a half years after we got started, a key measure of our success is still making the world more accessible for someone who is blind. The best part, as with so much assistive tech, is that we’ll be making the world better for everyone.
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