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Pushing the Boundaries of Human-Technology Interaction with Port 6: IDBM Industry Project 2023


Port 6 is a Finnish early-stage startup operating in the realms of human-technology interaction and augmented reality. The mission of the company is to bring the sense of touch into the metaverse – making the extended reality landscape more ergonomic and human-centered.


This year, one of the Industry Project teams has partnered up with Port 6, with the goal to identify prospective new use cases for the touch detection technology Port 6 has built. Port 6’s Touch SDK enables hand gesture detection with wrist-worn devices, turning smartwatches and other wearables into powerful controllers. Through a user-centered approach and with the help of design thinking methodologies, the IDBM team aims to develop novel insights for Port 6’s business development.


We wanted to hear from the student team and from Ohto Pentikäinen, the Co-Founder and CEO of Port 6, about their journey so far - and they were happy to share!

 

First of all, how did Port 6 find its way to IDBM Industry Project?

Ohto (Port 6): I was personally aware of IDBM as some of my friends had done the program before, and I had heard great things about it! Usually, the budget of these projects would be way out of our scope, but this time we were able to get the EIT funding for our involvement. This made it an obvious choice for us since we are tackling a multi-disciplinary problem, which seems to suit the IDBM way very well.


From the start, it was clear that we wanted the students to work on use cases for our technology within the existing augmented reality industry. It demands design thinking to figure out value propositions for use cases, business thinking to assess the business potential, and technology skills to build prototypes for showcasing value. The team we got to work with reflects exactly these skill sets, which we are very happy about.


What about the students - what motivated them to apply to the EIT Startup Track Industry Projects?

All the team members had been interested in ventures and the startup ecosystem. Some of the members already had some work experience from the scene, for example from Slush, but others admitted to being quite new to the world of startups.


Gladys (IDBM ARTS): The main reason I chose the EIT project is to elevate creativity in solving problems for a new company with a non-constricting boundary while simultaneously creating a stronger relationship with the clients and the team. Also, I felt like there's a higher chance for the EIT team's project outcome to be implemented and realized in the business, compared to the classic track. It would be something cool to brag about if we could create a valuable impact.


Evie (IDBM BIZ): I was willing to take the challenge and try coping with some extra ambiguity. The fact that, for startups, every business decision is about survival, also speeds and spices up the project. On top of that, I like how the value of design thinking is indisputable in this context.


Kalle (IDBM TECH): I thought that the EIT startup track could offer me a lot that a normal industry project couldn't, so I chose to apply for it. I also liked the fact that everything would be a bit vague and that we would be working with startups rather than big corp.


What have been the biggest learnings for the students as well as for the start-up thus far?

Evie (IDBM BIZ): The quite brutal dynamics between the Big Tech companies and early-stage startups came to me as a surprise. However, I have also been amazed by how hospitable and ready to help the Finnish startup ecosystem and community have been towards us – both domestically and on international waters.


Kalle (IDBM TECH): Personally I've learned a ton since the project started. I would say that the most important thing I've learned thus far is that plans can (and will) change, and when they change it happens quickly. We need to adapt and grow with the change. Luckily our changes have not been from the company's side, but rather internal.


Ohto (Port 6): So far we've most enjoyed the way the student team has been able to grasp the very essence of our problem, since for most people augmented reality interaction is a non-problem. After all, the devices don't really exist for the ordinary consumer. The student team has shown extraordinarily the capability of grasping a multi-disciplinary problem and starting to find the companies that may experience this problem in their everyday work. We look forward to working on the design and prototyping process together with the students!


Half of the team traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles, while the other half headed to Tokyo. This was a natural decision, as the US West Coast is a major XR hotspots leading the technological development of the industry, whereas Japan appears as a cultural pioneer in XR applications.


Interested in how the project evolves? Keep an eye on our blog for updates or visit Impact Gala 2023 on the 17th of May for final presentations.

 

This year, two EIT Startup Track industry projects are conducted with early-stage startups (with funding from C-ACCELERATE), allowing our students the opportunity to work closely with entrepreneurs and startups, and for our faculty to develop our pedagogical methods with a focus on experiential entrepreneurial education.




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