The entrepreneurs of Techno 2012 (photo courtesy of the Institute for Optical Sciences)

Entrepreneurs launch 15 startups through Techno 2012

Your friends are chatting but the subway car is so crowded you can’t make out what anyone’s saying. Wish you were in on the joke?

CogniWave is working on a solution.

The start-up - one of 15 companies to emerge from the University of Toronto’s Technopreneurship program this summer - has designed a product to help people who have difficulties separating single voices from multiple in crowded social situations.

Technopreneurship, or Techno, as participants call it, is organized by U of T’s Institute for Optical Sciences (IOS).

“Each participant comes with their own academic and technical expertise,” says Cynthia Goh, director of IOS. “Over the course of Techno we work with everyone to ensure that the market they have chosen is one where they can have an impact.”

Science and engineering graduates sign up for the program in order to transform their ideas into marketable products and start-up companies. Each of the first two years of Techno produced ten companies. Leading the way this year are dynamic groups targeting a wide variety of medical issues such as autism, hearing loss, and innovative approaches to ultrasound technology.

“This is the first year we have teams working with medical treatment and devices,” remarks Goh, “it has been a great experience working with these teams and learning about the unique challenges associated with these technologies.”

CogniWave, founded by two graduate students from Electrical & Computer Engineering, hopes to help users enhance their ability to hear competing speakers. Its product uses technology which has shown to double or triple intelligibility in a normal hearing subject.

Another Techno start-up seeks to help children with autism. Brain Labyrinth Games, founded by two graduate students with the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, uses BlockJAM, a game played with different rule sets which vary the weight, texture, size, colour, and shape of the blocks, to foster the development of abstract thought. The group aims to partner with care providers and autism research centres to run clinical trials.

And Sonola Imaging Technologies is developing a new low-cost and easy to use brain imaging system based on ultrasound instead of MRI scans which are expensive, time-consuming, and uncomfortable. The company’s primary focus is on developing a technique to counteract the strong distortions caused by the skull in the ultrasound imaging process.

Located in the newly renovated Best Institute building, across from the MaRS Discovery District, IOS will continue to work with these start-ups by providing crucial networking opportunities, incubation space, web and logo design services, monthly meetings and guidance.

“Techno is exciting because we have a chance to work with a different group of students and a host of new technologies,” Goh says.

“Teaching students how to create and scale-up new solutions that have a tangible and positive impact on the world is always exciting.”

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