Dr. Alvin Chan finds a solution to reduce cognitive decline with his wearable tech gadget, Neeuro.
Funded via the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo , the Senzeband is Neeuro’s in-house built headband that is meant to sharpen your brain while you play games on your mobile. Equipped with EEG sensors for tracking head movement, the Senzeband hooks up to Memorie, the mobile app also developed by the company.
Human Asia chats exclusively with Dr. Alvin Chan to find out more about Neeuro, and his view on the future of wearable technology.
Tell us about the beginning
Dr. Alvin: Neeuro was founded in 2013, with a dream of creating solutions that would aid in improving mind wellness. Having relatives who suffer from Dementia was one of the catalysts of Neeuro’s founders to finding a solution that could possibly reduce or slow down cognitive decline. Neeuro wanted to provide brain-sensing technology that was cost-effective, convenient and available outside of medical institutions to allow people to understand their minds and learn about how they could improve their mental health.
Some pain points involve raising the awareness that brain fitness is just as important as physical fitness. We need to keep our brain active to ensure that it stays healthy and well. Currently, our solutions have been developed based on global studies and research findings. We would like to further enhance the current data model that we have for Asia and beyond, hence we are looking for more partners.
How do Neeuro gadgets work?
Dr. Alvin: Our goals of enhancing brain fitness for a healthier mind led to the development of the SenzeBand and Memorie. The SenzeBand is a wearable that measures brain activity while users play cognitive training games on Memorie, a mobile application. The cognitive functions that the games in Memorie train include memory, attention, decision making, cognitive flexibility and visual-spatial ability.
The SenzeBand was developed using A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)’s
electro-conductive elastomer technology that enhances signal contact. It uses six electrode sensors that are capable of detecting brain waves from the frontal lobe of the brain, which are then translated as mental states such as attention, relaxation and mental workload.
By providing such data to users, they would be able to see how they react to different cognitive tasks while they play the games and understand their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Memorie also provides progress reports on their training over time so that users can keep track of their improvements and focus on their weaker points.
Read also : Kamala Sinnadurai – Home for Neglected Children
How would a user know that it is working?
Dr. Alvin: Memorie records a game score, behavior score and brain score after every game. Game and behavior scores relate to a user’s quality of action during the game. Brain scores are made up of the amount of focus and mental workload a user had during the game. This allows a user to know whether the game they are playing is
really stimulating their brain.
Progress reports are shown in daily, weekly and monthly charts, and users will also be able to view their overall performance for each cognitive function.
Is the technology built in-house?
Dr. Alvin: Yes, our technology is built in house.
What product expansion plans do you have?
Dr. Alvin: Our initial plans are to enter the market with consumer versions of our products. As we continue to reach out and communicate with communities such as schools, hospitals, care centers, we will be launching an enterprise version to allow these organisations to better understand their students and patients and get timely feedback on their progress.
We are eager to create a variety of different applications in the future to address different needs. Some examples are in the areas of sleep, relaxation and learning.
Did you always want to become an entrepreneur?
Dr. Alvin: I always feel that I’m an accidental entrepreneur. My passion is to build good products and solutions that solve problems. It all started in 2008, and this has brought me on a very interesting journey throughout for almost the past 10 years, facing different challenges and learning how to face them as I go along. I really love what I do today, because everyday is different and the diversity of the exposure is amazing.
You are an expert in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Tell us where you think the future of AI is in wearable technology.
Dr. Alvin: Everyone started talking about big data a couple of years ago, I always comment that its been there for the longest time. I started in AI since 1995, however computers were not as fast and scalable then. And today, we are talking about Deep Learning. All these are based on algorithms and techniques that have long been available. I guess that due to today’s computational resources being easily available, it comes back.
Data is everywhere, and I feel that the future of AI will come from human data through wearable technologies. Its about understanding our human body better, how can we predict certain diseases, who are at risks, and how we can potentially tackle them before it becomes too late.
What’s a typical day for you like?
Dr. Alvin: I got a husky dog and every morning, I spend half an hour to take her out for her walks. I find that this helps me get ready for the day. Also during this time, it helps me to focus on what I need to do during the day before actually getting down to it. I find that it helps me manage my time in the day better by just having some mental plans before hand.
I’m pretty much a “go go go” person in the office. I want things to run as efficient as possible, working together with my team ensuring that we are moving as one well oiled machine. Most times, anyway!
I usually end my day around 6pm, to make it back home to prepare dinner. I love cooking and again, this is the time where I take a break to just think about what I had done and what I can do better. Dinner is pretty much a family thing to ensure that we still have our family chats. Then it’s back to my laptop to catch up on emails before I head to bed.
Define what success is for you.
Dr. Alvin: Success is to develop something and to see your product or solution in use, solving people’s problems, and putting a smile on their face. We are put on this earth to contribute and give to society, that is the way God intends us to be.
Therefore, my contribution to this world is to put my products and solutions out there to help people, and seeing it being used is most rewarding. Getting that “thank you, I love your product and love what you do, it really helps” from people is an amazing feeling.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dr. Alvin: Be dynamic, never say die attitude and always open to listen to others. You may start with an idea and you can be quite adamant about it, but do remember, its important to listen, and listen humbly to what others say, as they may give you a different perspective that you may not have thought of.