Student Startup Madness

Student Startup Madness

Recently, we started providing information about some of the entries in Student Startup Madness (SSM). According to the official website, SSM is a national tournament-style competition for college student digital media startups. From entries across the nation, 64 teams are chosen, then 32, then the competition finale is the “Entrepreneurial Eight” national finals at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive.

All of the teams must be digital media ventures to stay consistent with the focus of SXSW, a series of film, interactive, and music festivals held every spring in Austin, TX. Ultimately, the Entrepreneurial Eight pitch at SWSX for the title of SSM National Champion.

Six From SU in 64

Of the 64 chosen startups, six were chosen from Syracuse University: Contact, CUSELIGHT, HoundDog, Out There Productions, S.R.T.E.X., and Ulocal. We looked at HoundDog last. This time, we’re looking at Contact. (For additional information, visit IDEA‘s spread on Student Startup Madness!)



Introducing Contact

Who: Ben Marggraf, CEO

Tim Meyer, Director of R&D

Tom Buchanan, COO

What: CEO Ben shares what Contact is:

“Contact is changing the way people interact with computers through the development of devices that further immerse the user into a virtual space. Our first project is a glove controller that would allow the user to feel and manipulate virtual objects in a virtual reality environment. Contact was chosen as the name of the company because it embodied exactly what we are trying to do: make computer interaction personal through a sense of touch.”

Where: Syracuse University

When: Spring 2014

The Problem: There needed to be a device that would allow a user to manipulate 3D space in a more intuitive manner, ultimately gaining additional sensory information, such as 3D modeling, from this new environment.

Who’s Behind Contact?

All three team members are full-time engineering students from various fields. Ben and Tom are both seniors in the Biomedical Engineering field, while Tim is a Mechanical Engineering senior. Tim and Ben have known each other since freshman year and were roommates junior year when Ben was enrolled in an entrepreneurship class.

Ben asked Tim to join his team with the idea of Contact in mind. Tom (a classmate of Ben’s), was asked to join the team over the summer of 2014 while they worked on refining their prototype. Because the team is made entirely of full-time students, each business day is often new and spontaneous. However, if the team has “the next big thing” or a great idea, they meet up and work for long stretches of time.

CEO Ben pitching at the IDEA Juicer last fall

CEO Ben pitching at the IDEA Juicer last fall

What’s Next for Contact?

Last spring at Emerging Talk, Contact won $2,000 to continue working on their prototype in the Biotech and Healthcare category. You can get more information about last year’s Emerging Talk here.

Contact currently has a robotic hand prototype capable of capturing and transmitting the motion data of the thumb, middle, and pointer fingers to the computer. This data will then be used to control a 3D-printed robotic hand. The haptic systems of the prototype are also currently being developed since it is needed to control a virtual hand.

For the near future, the team is working on a glove that controls a virtual hand in a virtual reality (VR) environment. The team is also working on gathering haptic signals through their prototypes, communication and interaction through the sense of touch. This will be conducted in the form of temperature, pressure, vibration, and force feedback from this virtual environment.

Ideally, this new product can be used in a variety of fields, including medical, scientific, and even recreational. While the prototype and other relevant products will require significant developments throughout the next couple of years, I personally believe that this technology can help others in need.

Each startup on any university campus has dedicated students that are both full-time students and full-time employees as young, entrepreneurs. Want to learn more about Contact? Leave your comments below and check out their Facebook page!