MEng students win Bose AR Pitch Competition Grand Prize
By Jessie Ying
A team from UC Berkeley College of Engineering won the Grand Prize at Bose AR x Capital Factory Pitch Competition! The Award Ceremony was hosted at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this week. The team comprises Bethany Lu — BSc (ME), Jovin Foo — MEng (ME), Kristjan Sigurdsson — MEng (ME), Zining Wang — MEng (CEE), and John Young — MEng (ME).
The competition challenged participants to come up with an idea to utilize the Bose audio augmented reality platform which interacts with the external environment and adds an auditory layer on top of it. Participants first submitted a short video showcasing their idea thereafter the judges picked four finalists who were invited to present their ideas at SXSW where the Grand Prize winner would be chosen. Our MEng team was the only student team in the final. And competing against two AR/VR startups and one experienced professional in the field, they triumphed!
“It was definitely nerve-wracking to have been selected to be among such accomplished finalists. Two of the companies were actual VR/AR startups so we definitely felt outranked sitting among them,” the team recalled.
The team came up with the idea of what they called “Nod N Talk.” Just like its name suggests, the concept works like this: Bose headphone users who are within each other’s proximity can start a phone conversation by a simple nod at the other person’s direction. The entire process is completely hands-free; users don’t need to reach into their pockets for their phones at all. It will be achieved by connecting data from the built-in sensors in the headphones to the Bose app which will make a VoIP call.
This concept addresses the pain point that many students on college campuses have: you see someone you know walking by, you call out their names, but the person has his or her headphone on, the surrounding is noisy and the distance between you is far — so the person doesn’t hear you and walk out of your sight. With Nod N Talk, technologies like headphones no longer impede human interaction, but instead facilitate it. This concept is also useful for noisy and busy factory environments in which workers need to communicate with each other. With Nod N Talk, they no longer have to stop what they are doing and reach for their walkie-talkie. A simple nod is all it takes and this will significantly increase the efficiency in these workplaces.
The Nod N Talk team has won the Bose Design Challenge at UC Berkeley last November with a previous iteration of their idea. They remained passionate about the idea and decided to reshape it when they learned about the opportunity to enter this competition and present at the leading technology and media conference SXSW.
Thinking back on their triumph, the team said it felt unreal.
“They called up all the runners-up before announcing the grand prize winner. The whole time we were waiting and expecting our names to be called as a runners-up but our names were never called. It took us a few seconds to fully realize what was happening until they announced us to be the grand prize winner. What followed was a euphoric celebration with the team. It was especially great to get to celebrate with Coleman Fung as he was in the crowd.”
Going forward the team will continue to work on and refine Nod N Talk as they see a lot of potential for growth in the AR industry.
“We worked very hard for this competition and truly believe that we identified a great application for Bose’s AR technology. We are so grateful and excited to be recognized for our solution by Bose, and we can’t wait to continue to make this a reality,” they said.