ALEX: Hello, today’s Deaf Business Spotlight is… Wavio, a new startup tech company founded by Greyson Watkins. Wavio is a device that “hears” sounds and alerts you what they are. He leads a team in developing the technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Venture Creations center and they have pitched the idea to various competitions and investors.
SARAH: Hi, I’m Sarah! I’m Convo’s Community Curator in Rochester. I’m here on Tech Park Drive, a place with many techs start up companies. I’ll be meeting with a Deaf-owned company. Are you curious to see what technology they offer? Come and see!
GREYSON: Hi, I’m Greyson. I’ve been the CEO/Founder of this company since the beginning.
SPENCER: My name is Spencer, I’m the business developer with Wavio as of last year.
GREYSON: I’d like to share a story with you. When I moved into my new home, I was watching my daughter who was 5 at that time. She fell down a flight of stairs and hurt herself badly while I was in the other room. I couldn’t hear her cries for help. This is a very common problem with 48 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans. Now I’ve solved this issue by using an intelligent sound recognition technology that’s plugged into your outlet. It acts as “ears” to listen and identify sounds that are happening. It doesn’t simply notify you that there’s a sound; it tells you what it is and where it’s coming from.
Here’s the device. It processes the sounds and sends information to your smart watch, phone, tablet, and VP, too!
Two years ago was when I first decided to solve this issue. I had this first design for our hub. I also had these two devices that contain microphones. I decided to go out to Deaf festivals to receive customer feedback. I had different design shapes: circle, square, UFO, cylinder, and triangle. Everyone voted for the triangle. So we started with this triangle prototype and the rest on this table.
Before the name Wavio was established, we came up with the name Hz Innovations. Hz (hertz) is a measurement of sound frequency. I liked that idea, so I added “Hz” with “innovations” because I like coming up with new ideas on the board. But it happens that a lot of hearing people can’t pronounce the word hertz. Sometimes they say it as “hz” or the word “hertz”. So based on feedback from customers, I came up with few names and “Wavio” was voted. Why “Wavio”? Because the “wav” part is from the word sound wave, and the “io” part is from the word audio. I combined those two to become Wavio.
SPENCER: I have a great opportunity to be with this team. Each of us come together with different personalities, background in technology, and skills. It’s very varied! I focus on business development and sales, while Zach focuses on the sound recognition software.
Nick focuses on the hardware and PCB (printed circuit board.)
Greyson is the face of this company. He’s the founder, so he’s out there meeting people, talking about the technology, and developing partnerships with potential companies. Each of us is different but together, we will go far. You can’t do it all on your own.
SPENCER: It’s very visual for the deaf and hard of hearing people out there.
ATTENDEE: That’s very cool!
GREYSON: Our focus is on the deaf, hard of hearing, and senior citizens. In the future, I’d like to expand for home security to identify sounds like glass breaking, guns going off, or cars running.
Where do we stand now? We received a funding last August. I used the money to invest in different projects related to Wavio. Recently in January or February, we’ve run out of the money. We’re currently looking for a second round of funding to complete the electric board design.
This is a custom printed circuit board. We designed it so that it will merge with another company’s technology to filter out white noise, such as TV on in the background, ceiling fans, and/or other sound frequencies that humans don’t hear. Once that’s done, we’ll be launching a beta version for testing in the Summer. We’ll have 5 prototypes. It will work the moment you plug it in the first time. It will look good because it won’t have the wires that I don’t like. You can see it all in one device. I look forward to seeing customers’ experiences with it. Not just with the device, but with the app, too! After that’s done, we plan to work on lighting colors like blue for running water, and red for fire alarms. We’ve already tested those and it worked! That’s the plan so far. We’re looking forward to giving as many product demos we can all over the country. We’re hoping this will help us get more contracts, and to help me to continue innovating.
ALEX: That’s a great idea for a tech business — it is empowering to see that Deaf people are capable of creating devices that focus on sounds. They have big dreams for their company. You can learn more at their Facebook page @meetwavio or on their website: innovatehz.com to sign up for email updates.