Sunu Wristband Device for the Blind Wins AARP Contest
Kenneth Terrell A wristband that uses sonar to help people who are blind or with low vision navigate their surroundings w...
For most of us, walking to work, to the store or enjoying a stroll around the park may be just another part of our day-to-day. But for the 285 million people who are blind and visually impaired, getting around can be one of the most challenging chores of their day. Mobility is an everyday challenge for people who are blind and low vision. The constant loss of orientation, the inability to protect the body against obstacles in the environment and missing out on important cues for navigation means frequent accidents, frustration and anxiety.
Mobility and access to information are the essential cornerstones of independent living. Unfortunately, most aids only offer a limited solution. Though white canes and guide dogs can help guarantee the next step, they’re unable to detect upper-body obstacles (such as tree branches, sign posts, etc) which are one of the leading causes of accidents. Additionally these aids cannot provide the user with essential navigation information. It also takes years of training and rehabilitation to be proficient at using these aids.
On the other hand, individuals who are in the process of losing their sight tend to reject the use of standard aids due to the social stigma and denial of their disability. The unfortunate result is a slow and painful adaptation process.
Sunu Band is here to help people with visual impairments travel with confidence. It is the only smart-band that informs the user of obstacles using realtime haptic feedback, while providing meaningful location and navigation information through voice feedback.
The Sunu Band uses sonar or echolocation technology to detect objects up to 16 feet or 5 meters away. Then haptic vibration feedback informs the user on how close (or far away) they are is to an obstacle in realtime. When Sunu Band is connected to its mobile app, the user can also access location information from the smart-band like nearby places, street names, intersections, etc, thereby making the navigation experience more inclusive and safer for blind and low vision people.
Thanks to its complementary design, the Sunu Band is a perfect companion to the white cane and guide dog. While standard aids are good at detecting nearby obstacles at floor level, the Sunu Band detects obstacles from the knee level up to the head, thereby providing complete protection against obstacles and increased awareness.
Sunu Band is easy to learn and intuitive. With a minimal learning curve, it reduces 90% of accidents to the body (i.e. the chest, arms and head). It is also an excellent aid for those in the process of losing their sight, as it is very discreet to use and eliminates the stress of sticking out and social stigma. Sunu Band ultimately increases autonomy and improves self-confidence when walking about.
The Sunu Band was launched in late November 2017 and is the first smart mobility aid in the market. It works as a standalone product or as a smart device when paired to an iOS or Android smartphone. It is widely available in 28 countries and certified by the regulating authorities like FCC, CE, FDA. Our technology has two patents approved protecting the device ergonomic design, and the utility model for the sonar application.
The Sunu App integrates seamlessly with the Sunu Band to provide GPS and way-finding information on the go in a way that is accessible to blind and low vision users. With the App the user can know where he is, what places are around him, start navigation to a place, and more. The user can access all Sunu App features from the Band’s interphase without the need of taking his phone out, making the navigation experience more convenient and safer.
The Sunu Band’s obstacle detector increases the user’s awareness of the objects around. Within a second, the user knows the object’s location, proximity and form, thus allowing them to react to their situation, whether that is to stop, walk around an object, follow a person or squeeze through a gap. The way the sonar sensor works is very simple:
The sonar sensor emits ultrasonic sound waves which travel through space and bounce back from the objects it encounters.
The returning sound waves (echoes) are decoded by the Sunu Band to extract important information about the object, like proximity, hardness, size, etc.
The haptic feedback (vibrations) communicates this information in real-time to the user as a series of vibrations that are felt on the wrist.
The Sunu Band is the first intelligent travel aid to be paired with a smartphone. Since its launch in late 2017 we have continued to add value by adding more features via software updates from the App. Once the Sunu Band is paired to a smartphone, the user can:
Customize the Sunu Band:
Adjust the sonar range
Adjust the sonar detection area
Adjust or customize the haptic feedback
Unlock App + Band features:
Voice feedback: receive Sunu Band’s feedback via voice
Haptic watch: discreetly tell the time with vibrations
‘Hand-Pointing’ Compass: know any direction by simply pointing with the hand.
Haptic alarms: setup multiple discreet vibratory alarms
Activity tracker: count steps and track activity
Phone finder: find your phone with a click of a button
Access the Sunu Navigation App without taking the phone out
With the Sunu App paired, the user can use the Sunu Band to:
Access location information on the go
Request the address of your current location.
Know the street names and closest intersections.
Receive nearby places info within your path
Explore the surroundings with Augmented Reality
Know about places in the direction you’re pointing your hand.
Search using categories and range with the Place Finder
Navigate to a destination
Receive turn-by-turn directions via voice and haptic feedback.
The Sunu Band’s hand-pointing compass keeps you in the right direction.
In the last couple of years Sunu has been securing a number of important milestones. On the operative side, we finish building the product, certified it for global distribution standards, got our two patents approved, raised seed funding and setup our supply chain with base in Guadalajara (Mexico), where most part of our team is based and has a strong manufacturing ecosystem (industry leaders include Jabil, Flextronics, Sanmina, more). We launched in late 2017 with a 1k unit batch and by reinvesting our revenue we were able to do two consecutive productions doubling the volume in each one. These has allowed us to minimize costs, optimize quality, but most importantly, secure one of the cornerstones of a growing Hardware startup, a solid supply chain and manufacture.
On the sales side, we started doing pre-sales on our website since mid 2017, launched the product in November 2017 and started building our distribution network in early 2018. With only one person doing business development we were able to sell close to $180k by the end of mid 2018, then we hired a couple of sales reps and almost quadruple that amount a year later.
As of today, we have sold about $940k in total revenue, we still selling on or website and we have 47 distribution partners in 28 countries (many of them already placed a second order and a few a third one), our marque partners include Vision Australia, New England Eye Institute in the US, Sight & Sound in the UK and more.
We also recently opened subsidies channels in Norway, Australia and three subsidies in the US; one medical insurance in Massachusetts (Masshealth) and a couple of Veterans Affairs (VA) subsidies, for New York and Cleveland. We are in process of opening more subsidies, including the American Printing House (for students), the VA for the rest of the states, the Department of Rehabilitation of the US, along with subsidies in Germany and Israel.
Now with a solid supply chain, a scaling world wide distribution network and an initial successful introduction into medical and government subsidies, we are ready to take Sunu to the next level and focus on scaling our growth for the next year.
For 2020, we will grow our Business Development team to continue expanding our distribution network at a faster pace, we will invest heavily in opening more subsidies from governments and medical insurance, and catapult our online presence by selling on Amazon. With that, we are projecting to sell $2M in 2020.
Sunu's award-winning technology has received recognition on the world's stage. We recently won the 2019 AARP Innovation Labs Grand Challenge in the US. Receiving the AARP highest technology award enables Sunu to partner with the leading organization that's addressing the aging and elderly market in the US.
Sunu is the Gold Award winner of the 2014 MassChallenge, the largest small business and startup competition in the world. Our team has also received recognition from the MIT Technology Review along with other prizes.
Sunu is featured in some of the leading press and media outlets in the US and worldwide. We've also received reviews from some of the top thought-leaders and influencers in our industry.
Since launching Sunu Band in November 2017, we have close to 5K users in over 50 countries, and our app is translated into more than 30 languages. Most importantly, our customers and user community report that Sunu Band is helping reduce accidents by over 90%! That means less incidents requiring medical attention or days off work due to home-rest.
Our users find Sunu Band intuitive, easy to learn, and our tutorials/guides are prepared by the experts at World Access for the Blind. Sunu Band users experience less anxiety, have increased self-confidence and feel more independent. Sunu Band has received positive reviews by opinion-leaders and experts in orientation and mobility, blind rehab as well as from influencers and product reviewers. Our product was developed in partnership with leading organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind, Perkins, experts and has received numerous awards.
Sunu was founded to provide a mobility and independence solution that can be affordable and used by all. After considering all costs of manufacturing and shipping into our costs, we make a 74% margin on sales to consumers and an average 57% margin on direct sales to specialized distributors.
Our mobile platform allows us to continue to test and validate various value propositions as we aim to eventually turn on a subscription (HAAS) which will allow us to penetrate further into other markets, such as those in the developing world like India, Latin America, Asia and other countries.
The global assistive technologies market is expected to reach $31B by 2024. That’s more than double its size of $14B in 2015, at an annual growth rate of 7.4%, according to market analysts at Coherent and Zion Market Research. Why the growth in Assistive Technologies? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 U.S. adults is living with a disability, which is circa 61 million in total. The baby boomer generation is more likely to have a disability than previous generations as they age, which means that this ratio is likely to grow in the future. Globally, more than 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some type of disability.
Visual impairment comes in many forms. Today, 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired. That includes 39.3 million who are blind and 246 million who are low vision. The leading causes of blindness are eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, age related macular degeneration, glaucoma and uncorrected refractive errors. The number of visually impaired people in the US and Europe is expected to rise to 35 million.
We’re starting by addressing the global assistive technologies for the visually impaired segment of the market, whose size in 2016 was $3.2B. This market segment is expected to reach $7.2B by the year 2026, and is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6%. The two main market drivers are: an increase in the disabled elderly population worldwide, and the technological advances in assistive technologies. The market is seeing an increase trend in initiatives from governments and private bodies to provide better healthcare services, in increased focus in medical/technological advances for the visually impaired and a rising focus on emerging economies.
We are initially addressing the North American (US and Canada) and European regions, which make up ~70% of the market distribution. Applying a simple Bottom-up approach, we predict a $10.5B opportunity within this market segment.
We offer the best value in the market compared to other electronic travel aids and mobility solutions. Our products are multifunctional, beautifully designed, discreet and are easy to use. Sunu Band complements the white cane and guide (for blind users), while offering a mobility solution that is appealing to those who are low vision.
Sunu will be the leader in the assistive technologies market. Our vision is a world where no human being should ever be disabled and where "disabilities" are no longer a sign of weakness, pity or discrimination. Our mission is empowering independence through technology that bridges the "access gap" by augmenting our human abilities.
Our product roadmap envisions new innovations in our mobile app for way-finding and navigation. Our navigation app will become the “toolbox” for the visually impaired by leveraging GPS and 5G networks as well as crowd-sourced information/data around accessibility. The Sunu app is being developed and launched in three phases:
Core navigation and way-finding - complete.
Access location information on ‘the go’.
Explore the surroundings with augmented reality.
Navigate to a destination.
‘A Wayz for the Blind’: Crowd sourced information of accessibility - Q2-2020.
Activate visually impaired users to report problems within a route, i.e. construction, dangerous street -crossings, etc.
Activate visually impaired users to rate places based on their accessibility, i.e. restaurants, shops, buildings, transportation, etc.
Create a community of volunteers sharing details about the accessibility of locations and places.
Virilization & growth through gamification and rewards - Q4-2020.
A way for users to earn points, badges and recognition for being active and contributing accessibility information to the community.
Rewards through discounts on assistive technologies and/or products for the bind.
Activate business (restaurants, cafes, shops) to engage with the blind and visually impaired consumer through promos and rewards.
By Q2-2020 we intend to determine the best value propositions to activate users to become paid members via a subscription model for the app. Similar to any SAAS, we intend to offer tier or levels of subscriptions to the app.
We just released the first phase of our newest navigation app and it’s already receiving a positive response within our user community.
We continue to validate and enhance the features within Sunu Band as a platform technology. We are paying particular attention to features that users will most likely subscribe to via our mobile app.
Advanced sonar detections - Currently in-progress.
Algorithms to provide more information about objects, i.e. contour, shape, material type etc.
Improved haptic communication.
Improved interface for seniors and the aging population.
Next Generation Sunu Band - Q3-2020.
Improved design and versatility as a wearable. Can be worn as a watch, used as a pointer or clip-on.
Enhanced obstacle detection and sensory communication. Will provide 3X more information via improved haptics and audio feedback.
Improved connectivity via cell and wifi networks. Allows rehab and caregivers to stay better connected with the user.
We are developing the next generation of human augmentation technology that will take assistive devices to an entirely new level of integration, intelligence and connectivity. Our next wearable smart aid, called Sunu Nek will provide an even greater detailed environmental information by combining multiple sensors such as optical, sonar, and more. The Sunu Nek will provide visual assistance to blind and low vision users and will integrate more computing power than a smartwatch. The neckband form factor allows the device a ‘360 degree view’ of the environment, i.e. enhanced sensing capabilities, and the device will be able to provide better communication (both haptic and audio) while maintaining a stylish design.
Research & Development - Complete.
Research program in navigation for the blind.
Prototyping - Q3-2020.
Validate core product functions with users with minimum viable prototype.
Achieve market validation.
Product Launch - yr.-2021
We recently won into Telefonica’s IoT Activation program. This program will enable Sunu to accelerate its new wearable prototyping, testing and market validation of its next generation assistive technology.
Sunu has received over $870K in funding to date from investors. We are 'backed' by Y Combinator (Summer 2017 alum) and leading technology investors from Silicon Valley.
Marco Trujillo, CEO
Robotics Engineer | Break Dancer
Inventor of the Sunu Band and 5 assistive devices. Social Innovator of the year by MIT Tech Review. 10 years experience in HW design and manufacturing.
Dr. Fernando Albertorio, CTO
Legally Blind Ph.D. Physicist | Musician
Legally blind technologist and serial entrepreneur. YC. TechStars and MassChallenge alumni, Harvard Physicist, member of the board of directors at MABVI.
The maximum valuation at which your investment converts
into equity shares or cash.
If a trigger event for Sunu occurs, the discount provision
gives investors equity shares (or equal value in cash) at a reduced price.
The smallest investment amount that Sunu is accepting.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.
$30,000 – $1,070,000
needs to raise
before the deadline.
The maximum amount
is willing to raise is
Sunu needs to reach their minimum funding goal before the deadline
If they don’t, all investments will be refunded.
We are using Republic's Crowd SAFE security. Learn how this translates into a return on investment here.
Our product is manufactured in Guadalajara, Mexico at Kadled. Kadled is an OEM manufacturer of electronics.
From a product perspective, in assistive products customizability and adaptability is key to user adoption (there aren’t two equal disabilities). Multi-functionality is another key element to customer success and can be capitalized (people with one disability may face multiple problems).
From a market perspective, there isn’t a strong brand but a lot of tiny and moderate ones. There is a huge opportunity of positioning a leading brand by working partnerships, proving impact and gaining the customer's confidence. Additionally, there is a big opportunity to disrupt this market with a subscription-based model such as a 'hardware as a service' or HASS model which allow Sunu to significantly extend the lifetime value (LTV) of its customers.
Current augmenting devices for blind navigation aren’t connected. This limits its functionality which results in bad design, poor functionality and ultimately low product adoption. That’s why the vast majority of the visually impaired still use the white cane or guide dog. The Sunu band is a platform product that is constantly monitoring the user's behavior and performance, allowing us to learn and enhance the product not just in the navigation space but also in many other functional spaces that the hardware permits to deploy.
Current electronic mobility aids for blind navigation aren’t connected. This limits its functionality which results in bad design, poor functionality and ultimately low product adoption. That’s why the vast majority of the visually impaired still use the white cane or guide dog. The Sunu band is a platform product that is constantly monitoring the user's behavior and performance, allowing us to learn and enhance the product not just in the navigation space but also in many other functional spaces that the hardware permits to deploy.
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