Innovate. Invent. Experiment. In this series, Imperial alumni tell us what they are working on.
Alfredo Belfiori (MSc Biomedical/Medical Engineering 2014).
FlickTek Ltd is a consumer electronics company that creates new technology capable of detecting and interpreting human bio-physiological signals to control electronic devices. It’s about coming up with technology that helps people communicate with connective devices more seamlessly.
ARIA is a tiny chip that sits on a bracelet, watch or smartphone and reads the finger movements from the wrist area, turning these finger movements into commands that can control any connective device. It’s the only technology in the world that can do this and the idea is to replace voice control or touchscreen in situations where these aren’t the best options. For example, touchscreen doesn’t always work for runners with sweaty fingers and voice control doesn’t work when there’s loud background music. Simple finger movements mainly involve pinching and flicking because these are very repeatable and easy to perform.
When I was at Imperial, I investigated the idea of a skin-applied sensor as an improvement to touchscreen and voice control. I was surprised to find absolutely no systems that could read finger movements, so I decided to try and find a way to help people communicate with technology from the wrist area. I started the company with three other people, including Liu (Leo) Qing (Statistics 2015) and Chia-Hung (Mick) Lin (Innovation Design Engineering 2015), who I met at Imperial by posting the position offer around the campus. Business Angels were quick to jump on the idea as it’s so innovative.
The fact that these technologies are so new and exciting. I’m overwhelmed by how far we’ve come in so little time. I also love that anyone can benefit from this technology. Who wouldn’t prefer to move their finger about instead of having to physically go to the machine to switch it back on, then open the app, then switch the buttons?
We have two goals. First, for this to become a standard way of communicating, making finger movement gestures part of all new wearable technologies, as well as augmented reality. Second, we want to expand the gestures out. So far, we use gestures that are easy to remember, and only a small number of them. But we are working to create a whole language for human-to-machine communication via hand gestures, as well as for human-to-human communication, for example sign language, so that deaf people are more widely understood by people who aren’t familiar with it.
Alfredo Belfiori is the co-founder and CEO of FlickTek Ltd. He took part in Imperial Create Lab, a pre-accelerator which helps Imperial students to learn real innovation skills, build amazing projects and provide the framework to take their ideas forward into the commercial world.