UCA Team Headed to Russia for Microsoft Imagine Cup Finals

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2013 4:50 pm  

The prototype of the Bear Claw glove, which is used with a smartphone app. (Photo by Mark Carter)

An ongoing research project at the University of Central Arkansas could turn into a big deal on the international business stage later this month.

Bears Unlimited, a team of four UCA computer science students, will compete in the world finals of the 12th annual Microsoft Imagine Cup next week in St. Petersburg, Russia. The team, which consists of UCA seniors John White, Ben Tackett, Kyle Eichelberger and graduate student Michelle Enfinger, developed a sensor-filled glove for use in hand, wrist and forearm therapy.
Faculty mentors are Sinan Kockara and Tansel Halic.
The glove, called the Bear Claw, is infused with sensors that track the progress of physical therapy patients. The glove is used to play specially designed games through a smartphone app that enables the system to track progress from home.
On Thursday, the team performed the 10-minute pitch it will deliver in Russia for UCA officials, friends and supporters. Eichelberger said the product incorporates real-time graphics simulation for visual motivation and feedback.
Bears Unlimited is one of 20 teams and the only U.S. team competing in the World Citizenship category. About 500,000 students worldwide entered the competition. Should it win the competition, the team will earn $50,000 and the distinction of being the first American winner. 
Perhaps more importantly, the finals appearance will afford the team exposure to Microsoft officials and potential investors. Winners will be announced at 8:30 a.m. July 11 and streamed live at ImagineCup.com.
The Bear Claw app will be usable on phones, tablet and PCs, and Eichelberger thinks it will not only motivate patients but will serve as an invaluable tool for therapists to monitor their patients' progress.
The team plans to start its business after the Imagine Cup and projects $8.4 billion in gross income in its first year of operation. Initial rollout will cover the U.S., where Eichelberger said 18 million people require hand or wrist therapy annually, before an international launch, where that number increases to 30 million.
The entire system will be marketed as a service which will cost $40 per month. The glove will be included at no cost as part of the service. White estimated that each glove costs anywhere from $20 to $50 to produce.
"We really have a chance to change the way therapy is performed," he said.
The team, including its faculty mentors, leaves for Russia on Saturday. 
"We have ambitions for the future," Eichelberger said. "We definitely want to take this further."



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