Search Results

Share Article:

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Mail

Tag: startups

Skygrow’s blue-sky vision: using tree-planting robots to fight climate change

muru-D

Posted on May 18, 2018

3 min read

Planting a tree is a considerable task, even for someone who knows what they’re doing. Multiply that task a hundredfold and it’s even more daunting – except if you’re using a team of highly specialised tree-planting robots to lay the groundwork for you. SkyGrow, one of our muru-D #SYD5 startups, has a high-tech solution that will be part of the future of fighting climate change and sustaining biodiversity and ecosystems.

SkyGrow founder and CEO Mark Stewart believes that this, more than anything else he’s done before, has the potential to address climate change and environmental issues on a massive scale. Mark has a background in environmental regulation, and has a longstanding passion for trees and addressing the growing problem of deforestation in countries around the world.

It’s a grand vision: creating a sustainable world for future generations. But to get there, SkyGrow’s mission is deceptively simple. It’s a mission of scale: planting trees faster than the rate at which they’re being cleared by development and deforestation. For that, SkyGrow and Mark Stewart are turning to technology. Stewart isn’t shy about the potential: “Everything we’re doing is breaking new ground – quite literally, in some cases.”

“…our vision is to be out there – planting trees, making a more sustainable environment for humanity.”

With the economic cost of land degradation to communities and governments pegged at $US231 billion per year and rising[1], it’s clear that we need to do more to address the growing lack of established trees and vegetation – and that’s before you consider the overall impact of climate change. Tree planting is the obvious solution, but it’s not so simple. And it’s a worldwide problem, one that Stewart says you can see if you go for a drive, not just one restricted to faraway places like the Amazon.

It is true that the face of massive forests like the Amazon have changed in recent decades; in fact, Russia now has the world’s largest forest area[2]. Deforestation due to industrial logging continues and the solution is simply planting more trees. The problem with current tree planting methods is that they’re highly manual, requiring lots of physically fit planters who have to be trained and traditional planting methods are just far too slow to counter the rate of deforestation. Other robotic techniques use flying drones to disperse seeds, but this method is not suitable for native plants that don’t grow well from seeds and it is also not effective where hard soils exist.

With the help of our muru-D startup accelerator, SkyGrow is getting the resources it needs to succeed. From laying out business plans to refining the way the founders make decisions, along with startup funding, the #SYD5 cohort entrant appreciates the help. “It’s been both challenging and rewarding; it’s really busy, but we’re covering a lot. There are components of the accelerator that have driven me to critique certain aspects of our business and this has helped us become stronger and more resilient.”

Tags: Muru-D, startups,

Meet the muru-D startups that want to change the world

muru-D

Posted on February 16, 2018

4 min read

The future of airborne human mobility, VR being used to rehabilitate stroke victims, and autonomous tree-planting robots are among the technologies being developed by the 10 startups accepted into muru-D’s SYD5 program, making up a cohort of companies focused on solving challenging global problems.

This cohort is our most diverse and ambitious yet.

It was important to us to select teams that have a social purpose element, using technology in innovative ways to solve real problems and create solutions for societies today and into the future.

We are focused on working with exceptional founders who are solving high impact, global problems. As part of the six-month program, they gain access to a purpose-built co-working space, a global network of mentors, alumni, investors and partners, an international trip to a startup hub, and many more perks.

I’m proud that muru-D continues to grow stronger each year and to have many of our alumni companies still actively involved in the program mentoring the next generation. With over 100 companies now in our portfolio, and 15 of these having raised $1 million or more in funding, we’re committed to continuing our support of the startup ecosystem throughout Australasia.

The SYD5 program commenced on 29 January, with each of the ten successful startups receiving $75,000 in seed capital investment.

The 10 successful companies accepted into SYD5 are:

  • AMSL Aero are developing an autonomous two-seat aircraft that can take off and land vertically and fly horizontally at 300km/h, an innovation paving the way for the future of human mobility. It is safer, faster, quieter and less expensive than helicopters.
  • Catalyser’s software and services provide customised business solutions for employers of all sizes to manage and grow their employee giving. In the two years since launching, Catalyser has facilitated over $2 million in donations for charities and has over 15,000 employee users in Australia, Asia, and the UK.
  • Cookitoo is a platform for cafes, restaurants and caterers to rent out their unused commercial kitchen space. From commercial cafes in Collingwood to revolutionary restaurants in Redfern, Cookitoo is changing the way food is made and consumed.
  • iCRM is a flexible cloud software platform that integrates with existing health and medical devices to deliver tailor-made care and support plans. iCRM has a mission to improve quality in-home care to the elderly and is already used in over one hundred aged care organisations in Australia.
  • Kiddsbay is the world’s first kid-friendly platform that provides every child the opportunity to achieve their dreams by unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit. Kiddsbay provides the platform for kids to launch their on-line business in a safe, fun, educational, global environment that connects communities and allows kids to take charge of their financial wellbeing.
  • Life Skills Group educate and empower children, teachers, schools and families to build a more compassionate, kinder and connected world. They are building a scalable and easily-distributed digital model to deliver wellbeing programs for primary and secondary students, as well as professional development programs for teachers and staff.
  • Neuromersiv are using Virtual Reality to make neuro rehab therapy fun and improve the quality of life for their users. Having a stroke or brain trauma can be life-changing for victims and their families. Neuromersiv offers a genuinely innovative solution to get people back on their feet as quickly as possible and lead normal, fulfilling lives again.
  • Share with Oscar is an on-demand platform for sharing private parking spaces. Founded by two female entrepreneurs passionate about finding a sustainable solution to the scarcity issues in our growing urban cities, Share with Oscar’s mobile platform allows the community to better utilise existing assets such as parking spaces through sharing.
  • SkyGrow are combatting the world’s deforestation problem by developing autonomous tree-planting robots (Growbots) that can rapidly plant billions of trees every year on behalf of communities, governments and industry. SkyGrow’s tree planting system is ten times faster and 15% cheaper than current methods.
  • vetchat is an online platform connecting pet owners with vets to help their pets in times of need. They deliver easy access to affordable, expert vet advice via one-on-one video consultations and on-demand chat. They have already helped thousands of Aussie pets and their parents.

I’m really excited to see how each and every one of these exciting new companies push themselves to grow and excel in their chosen field.

For more information head to muru-D.

More CEOs named Joan than John? How VR may tip the balance

Tech4Good

Posted on January 25, 2018

3 min read

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the Remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Annie’s.

Annie Harper isn’t someone you could easily forget. In Silicon Valley she was known as the blue-haired hacker (not to mention a feisty cage fighter). Now based in Sydney, she’s a surfing, salsa dancing, rock-climbing tech entrepreneur.

But there’s one or two times even Annie has felt invisible.

“I remember sitting in an audience last year while our co-founder Brennan was presenting on our startup Equal Reality,” Annie explained. “During the presentation Brennan pointed me out in the crowd as his co-founder while talking about my virtual reality graphic animation.”

“Straight after the presentation, a man came bounding up and shook the hand of man next me – congratulating him on his work and wanting to learn more. It hadn’t occurred to him that it was the 5’5″ blonde girl to his right who was the animator,” Annie laughed.

It’s ironic that this was exactly the type of unconscious bias experiences that had inspired the 32-year-old alongside partners Brennan Hatton and Rick Martin to create Equal Reality – the world’s first interactive diversity and inclusion training using high-end virtual reality (VR) technology.

Annie met Brennan three years ago while both working in Silicon Valley. She’d taught herself to code and was at Intel’s RealSense lab building brain-computer interface prototypes. At the same time Brennan was pioneering augmented reality (AR) technology, creating virtual worlds and communities, and founding his own companies in AR and VR.

Equal Reality - Remarkable Tech VR startup

The pair connected through their passion for adventure and the outdoors – on weekends you’ll find them canyoning, rock-climbing or even abseiling from bridges. But there was something deeper that brought them together. They both possessed a niggling feeling that they could use technology and their skills for social change. And it was a feeling they couldn’t let go of.

“When I first said to Brennan that sexism exists in our industry, he was surprised – he hadn’t seen it,” Annie said. “We talked about the unconscious biases people don’t even realise they bring to the workplace, stereotyping various groups of people, such as people with disabilities or those from different ethnicities, and yes, male-to-female biases.”

“We know these biases lead to discrimination, but how do you prevent them? How do you prevent something that people don’t even know that they do? We realised that VR technology was the perfect way to make an impact.”

There’s no doubt understanding personal unconscious biases can be hard through a PowerPoint presentation or corporate seminar. But through the immersive experience of VR, Equal Reality allows users to step into someone else’s shoes and feel the impacts of unconscious bias.

“We want to help companies shape their culture through high-end VR technology and experiential learning,” Annie said. “Equal Reality gives people the lived experience of different ethnicities, ages and physical impairments, helping them to understand their own prejudices through the eyes of others.”

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand pictures.”

How gaming is bringing new sounds to new ears

Tech4Good

Posted on January 23, 2018

5 min read

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the Remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Elliot’s.

“I’ve never seen being deaf as a bad thing.”

Elliot Miller explains: “It really taught me to view, articulate and interact with the world in a different, open-minded and often unique way.” He’s right. The 30-year-old Brisbanite has unique view of the world. Growing up deaf in a hearing world, also meant he’s had a unique experience of it. It was one particular unique experience in 2013 that inspired an idea which would set his life in a new direction.
“I’ll always remember the day I first went running after I received a cochlear implant,” Elliot said. “I could hear a jingling noise. When I stopped running to focus on this unfamiliar sound, the jingling also stopped. I wasn’t sure what it was and kept wondering what it could be. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised the noise was coming from the coins in my pocket.”

At two, Elliot was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in his right ear and profound loss in his left. Twenty-four years later he received a life-changing cochlear implant. However this ‘fix’ wasn’t as simple as ‘switching on the sound’. In fact, learning to understand new sounds has been one of the biggest challenges Elliot has ever faced. But this experience led him to combine his skills in graphic design and game design to create Games 4 Hearoes, which uses gamification to help people with hearing impairments transform the way they hear.

“Games 4 Hearoes is a digital auditory training platform to help track, adapt and empower those with hearing loss, specifically those with a cochlear implant, learn new sounds,” Elliot said.

“When someone receives a cochlear implant it’s a common misconception that they will automatically gain normal hearing. However it’s quite a different experience for everyone who goes through the journey.”

After someone receives a cochlear implant, what they mostly hear is almost like vibration feedback while the brain tries to identify the pitch and tone of the sound. Over time it steadies to ‘white noise’ until their brain is able to identify what the auditory feedback is and understand it. Recipients often need to relearn or learn how to hear – from environmental sounds through to understanding vocabulary.

“I hadn’t been prepared for how much work was needed in the rehabilitation process,” Elliot explained. “In theory, the cochlear speech processor is a more powerful, sharper device compared to the hearing aid that I was used to. Although I am able to hear more of the world around me, especially the soft or high pitched sounds which I had never heard before, it took a lot of practice and stamina to make sense of it all.”

So he set himself on a new path to use technology to make this process quicker, easier – and even fun. And it’s through serious games – computer games with a purpose to train, rather than simply entertain us. But as Elliot explains, serious games can do both.

“Games 4 Hearoes has a range of modules, starting with environmental sounds progressing to understanding sentences and dialogue,” Elliot said. “In each module, there is a library of gamified activities, which have been designed for everyone, from children to adults, to create an entertaining and immersive experience, rewarding participants as they progress.”

In developing Games 4 Hearoes, Elliot has drawn on his own experiences, as well as others.

“Even the small things in life, from the fridge alarm beeping to taps dripping – which had never been noticeable before a cochlear implant – can be easy to misunderstand in our noisy world,” Elliot said. “Using real life experiences and scenarios has helped the development of Games 4 Hearoes. Everyone we speak to brings new insights and ideas.”

Games 4 Hearoes was one of eight social change businesses using technology to change the lives people with disabilities, that took part in the 2017 Remarkable Accelerator. A partnership between the Telstra Foundation and Cerebral Palsy Alliance, the 16-week program has been tailored for early stage startups looking to build sustainable enterprises that have a big social impact. It does so by connecting them with the tools, skills and networks they need to succeed.

Elliot credits the program with helping him take the next step in making his niggling, ‘jiggling’ idea, a reality.

“We’re continuing to develop Games 4 Hearoes and to date we’ve had incredible feedback, not only from those with hearing impairments, but also audiologists who have validated what we’re trying to do,” Elliot said.

“We’re currently looking for people who have had cochlear implants, as well as audiologists to join us on our journey. Through the Remarkable program, I’ve gained the skills to now take the next step in launching this as a business.”

Elliot is passionate about the potential of technology to break down barriers for people with a whole range of disabilities – but especially for the hearing impaired.

“As hearing aid hardware has moved from analogue to digital – the possibilities of new technology are almost endless,” he said. “Addressing an issue that is so close to my heart with something I experience every day, is essentially how this all started.”

Want to Teleport to work this year?

Tech4Good

Posted on January 17, 2018

4 min read

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the Remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Marita’s.

Walking into Marita Cheng’s Richmond apartment in Melbourne’s sought-after inner east, you might be fooled into thinking this is the ordinary home of an ordinary 28-year-old. Take a swift left at the front door, one step into the garage, and ‘BAM’, there they are. A hundred telepresence robots, each 1.7 metres in height, standing idle, ready to change the world we live in. What’s most unbelievable about that last sentence, is that it’s true.

Marita’s startup aubot has created Teleport, a robot that allows people to be anywhere in the world through telepresence. And it’s hard not to get giddy when Marita explains that soon we’ll all start seeing these robots in offices, classrooms, even museums.

“The first time you see a Teleport out and about, you’ll probably want to take a selfie with it and put it on Instagram,” Marita said. “When you see a second one, you might do the same thing. But once you’ve seen your third, they’ll just become part of the environment.”

At the heart of the idea is social inclusion. Marita and her team designed Teleport in particular for people with disabilities and mobility issues to allow them to work and study remotely.

“Through these robots a young child in hospital will be able to go to school, even for an hour a day, to go to that maths class, or spend time with friends at lunch,” Marita said. A key part of achieving that is a user focused robot, which is affordable and easy to use.

“You can control the robot using your Chrome browser, or Android phone or tablet,” Marita explained. “It’s like playing a video game – Angry Birds or Super Mario Brothers. It’s fun and easy to control, but there’s an actual physical reaction that happens in the real world from the gestures you’re making on the phone.”

So where did aubot start? It started in a Cairns housing commission. This is where Marita grew up with her brother and single mother, who worked as a hotel cleaner to fund and foster her children’s education.

“When I was very young I believed that robots were going to be the future,” Marita said. “I thought it was strange that we didn’t already have robots in our homes, because we have the internet – and it’s incredible. Why can’t we apply those computer systems and have things be easier as a result?”

“I decided then that I wanted to be part of that robotics revolution, I wanted to bring robotics to the people. Ever since then I’ve thought, ‘robotics revolutions, don’t take off without me!’ And now I’m in the middle of it.”

Her vision for aubot remains the same as when she was a girl, to put a robot in every home “kind of like the Jetsons”. But it was more than the wonder of technology that lured Marita away from a career in medicine, which she initially planned to study, and into mechatronics engineering. It was the people of the digital revolution that inspired her most.

“When I was growing up I would read my brother’s old editions of Time Magazine, and I was fascinated by the profiles I read,” Marita said. “The Google guys. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniac. I thought, wow, with technology, you can achieve things on a huge scale. But you don’t have to be a certain age, you don’t need to have a lot of money at the start, you just need creativity, you just need to think differently, you need to work hard and bring something to the world that the world hasn’t seen before.”

“I wanted to do something like that. But I hadn’t seen anyone who had really done anything like that before. I didn’t even know the name for it.”