UT students participate in SXSW Edu pitch event with other universities

Eilish O'Sullivan

A future with invisible ear pieces feeding you information is not so far off with one UT student’s invention, pitched at a South by Southwest EDU event on Wednesday.

Mathematics junior Robert Mendelsohn showcased his artificial technology, “Mindwear,” an earpiece that answers the wearer’s questions and helps with tasks, operating like Siri or Alexa.  

Mendelsohn said he was inspired by the film “Limitless” and wondered what someone could achieve with a perfect memory.

“I was like, ‘What if we had that, what if we had a perfect memory, and how can we do that?’” Mendelsohn said. “Computers have perfect memories, so we started there.”

The earpiece connects the wearer to a cloud-based assistant that helps with things from calendars to emails. Because of its small size, it is nearly invisible when inserted in the ear canal, and a magnet is needed to pull it out.

The event, held at Main Street Hub in downtown Austin, was hosted by The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, an entrepreneurship program which supports and mentors student entrepreneurs.

Mitchell Jacobson is the director of the Blackstone Launchpad at UT, a hub that is part of the foundation and is located in the Flawn Academic Center. Jacobson said 20 other UT student companies wanted their ideas to be heard. Two students were chosen from UT-Dallas and two others from Texas A&M University.

“We’re so focused on (student entrepreneurs) actually doing (these things) and all the resources going into it, we don’t ever allow them the opportunity to shine,” said Tracy MacKenzie, director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The other UT participant, aerospace engineering junior Kevin Tu Doan, created the software application “Stack,” which takes and invests your spare change as cryptocurrency, or digital currency.

Doan said it acts like a piggy bank and is connected to your bank account. For example, if you buy a soda for $1.50, it rounds it up to $2.00 and the excess 50 cents gets invested as cryptocurrency.

Doan is currently “bootstrapping,” which means he is funding the app through himself, family and friends. His app is only a month old and will be launched next month.  

“This is a very good bridge between going straight out to try and find investors to going to an event and being able to publicize yourself without having to make that jump,” Doan said.

The competition was part of an event celebrating student entrepreneurship.