Child enjoying a Kinect game.
Whew! We are more than halfway through the 54 hour Seattle Start-Up Weekend marathon! When Dan & I signed up for this over a month ago I don’t think either of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into! All we knew was we had this big idea and we needed help to really get it off the ground. When LCA won the “Innovation in Issaquah” award for our use of the Kinect in therapy the speaker mentioned the entrepreneurial spirit in Washington and put up a link to startupweekend.org. I checked it out that day and then kind of forgot about it for a while as Dan and I explored other avenues to try to launch this idea. I feel like we’ve been in this frustrating place where every time we talk about this idea with someone, be it other therapists, Microsoft employees, researchers, developers, or potential investors, we kept hearing “wow, that is a great idea!” but never got quite the traction we needed to really push this idea into anything other than that…a great idea. So, when we heard that there was a start-up weekend scheduled in Seattle we figured we might as well give it a shot.
So here I am, at almost midnight on a Saturday night, having worked on this pretty much straight through since about 9am and although I am physically exhausted I can’t seem to find the off switch for my brain! I don’t know if it is the caffeine (I haven’t had regular coffee in over 6 months and had 3 grande Americanos today!) or the sheer adrenaline of seeing our ideas actually become a reality, but I really need to find that off switch so I can sleep and be ready to rock and roll again bright and early tomorrow morning!
What is our great idea you might ask? Well, it is to create a comprehensive curriculum of educational and therapeutic games specifically designed for children with autism to support their development of motor, speech and language, cognitive, academic, and social skills….and it’s called Kinetix Academy. Ever since I caught wind of the Kinect (back when it was still called Project Natal) I’ve been dreaming about how we could use this technology to support kid’s gross motor skills. Over the past six months or so I’ve slowly put some of those ideas down on paper and started to think through the developmental sequences, feedback and reinforcement schedules, and opportunities to target other areas of development. I think I kind of off-handedly mentioned this idea to Dan one day and he took that idea and ran with it and started outlining a curriculum targeting all sorts of different areas of development and thinking about how we could harness the ever-improving speech recognition technology to help kids with their speech and language goals. So my big idea suddenly got much bigger!
And the first thing we had to do to prepare for start-up weekend was to distill that BIG idea into a 60 second pitch to convince people that our idea is worth making a reality. That was quite the task and Dan and I finally whittled it down and practiced our pitch about a zillion times Friday afternoon on any poor LCA staff member or family member we could catch! All that practice paid off and although we were both super nervous I think our pitch went really well and generated a little bit of buzz. Trouble was there were about 40 other people pitching ideas and some of them were pretty cool ideas. Once everyone had a chance to pitch there ideas it was time for the voting and frantic team building/recruiting to begin. Now mind you, Dan & I are both complete rookies at this and had no idea what to expect. We thought once people voted that the top ideas would be announced and people would choose one of those 5 or so teams. In actuality it was complete chaos with over 100 people jammed into a small-ish space trying to expand their 60 second pitches, recruit key team members, and generally not get lost in the shuffle.
For a little while I thought, “oh no, here we go again” as I had one person after another say “Oh, wow, your pitch was so great! That is such an awesome idea” or “I totally voted for you, love your idea!” as they then went on to recruit for their own idea or followed with “but I don’t really have any skills that can help you.” But we got Shashi and he helped champion our idea and pointed us to Justin who had experience developing for Kinect. It was just the four of us and we knew we desperately needed a designer to help with the graphics, but as people settled into their teams and started staking out table space it became clear that designers were in short supply so we decided to give it a go with our mini-team. And ya know what, our mini team is doing just fine! We’ve had a few mentors and others stop by to pitch in here and there but mostly it’s just been the four of us. It’s Saturday night and we have a functioning Kinect application with some cute kid-friendly graphics that hopefully shows that this idea is possible; that we can target gross motor skills, following directions, and color concepts all in one simple little game.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us before the final presentations begin at 6pm tomorrow! But I actually think we’ll be okay. Tomorrow morning at 8am we’re meeting the amazing Miller family for some user testing and validation and making any final changes to the game. Then it’s full throttle on perfecting our final pitch. This time we get five whole minutes…which of course seems like nothing when we have so much great information to share about Kinetix Academy! If you read this before 6pm tomorrow, follow all the action on our twitter feed @KinetixAcademy or on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/kinetixacademy and when it’s all said and done we’ll try to post our final pitch video here so you can decide for yourself if this idea is worth investing in! Now it’s time for bed…wish me luck finding that off switch!
Posted by: Mari, Physical Therapist