NUADA is the result of a medical need combined with a lot of persistence and resilience. Filipe Quinaz, CEO of this innovative startup company, was interviewed by Jeff Hiserman, founder and CEO of Spectrum Ergonomics and Occupational Health Services, for the podcast “You Wear It… Well”, episode of September 2nd.
Read about the highlights of this interesting conversation regarding both wearables and technology.
Jeff Hiserman – What was the trigger that led you to create this soft exoskeleton?
Filipe Quinaz – There are two sides to this story. At the time, I was doing my PhD in Biomedicine. I was also a CTO for a big textile company, a lead developer in a software company and (at the same time) I was teaching Computer Architecture at my university. So, I had a very diverse set of skills.
One day, I was practicing Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art, when I broke a bone in my hand. Basically, I could not open a milk bottle for 2 years! So, I started to think about how I could solve my problem. And that's how NUADA came out.
Jeff Hiserman – You would make a great patient because you had a physical problem and you found a way to solve it! Let us know about the process…. What did you do next?
Filipe Quinaz – I could move all my fingers and wrist, but I didn't have strength. Whenever I exerted force, it was painful.
At the time, I was going to the gym and the main problem was to pick up a weight bar with my left hand. Some athletes, with the exact same problem, would use a sort of textile wrapped around the wrist. The idea was to bypass the fingers, so that the force could be made by the wrist, which makes sense.
I thought about that, but I had a problem because I couldn't wrap the textile on both my wrists without help. So, I thought, if I had something on my fingers, similar to a hook, it would be easier. Many hooks for different fingers! I shared my idea with some colleagues who were teaching Mechanical and Biomedicine Engineering and they told me: “That will never work”.
That same day I went home and started to dismantle a bunch of bikes and vacuum cleaners. Then, I asked my friends to design some parts and I created a sort of “Frankenstein glove” that illustrated my idea.
Jeff Hiserman – What kept you persisting on this idea?
Filipe Quinaz – I knew it would work! I got faith in my skills. It's important to do your own job with confidence focused on building skills.
External doubts might create tension but, at the end, if you really believe in what you're doing that's not an issue anymore.
Jeff Hiserman – At that point you said “I'm going to do this! NUADA is a product I want to get out in the market to help people… Who did you turn to next?
Filipe Quinaz – My teachers, Pedro and Simão, helped me a lot in the beginning. At the time I was still a university student and this was just a business idea.
We've created a very small team to work on the first prototype. The first push was when we decided to present NUADA in Microsoft Imagine Cup, a tech worldwide competition. We ended up winning the national competition, we passed the European one and then we took NUADA to Seattle to represent one of the 12 best ideas.
Jeff Hiserman – These wearables are interdisciplinary… Who did you reach out in order to get what we see right now: a slick black glove with a cool watch?
Filipe Quinaz – Honestly, I think NUADA had to be developed with a broad background. If you think about it from an electrical engineering perspective, and you don't care about the mechanics or the textiles, it won't work.
It's complex because all parts interfere with the mechanical and electrical design. Then, I found Fernando, who is the best engineer I've met so far, and he was the one who helped me with the main idea of what NUADA is now.
It was only by 2018 that we took into your own hands all parts of the development of our smart glove.
Jeff Hiserman – What were the big challenges you faced in the production of NUADA glove?
Filipe Quinaz – We have final prototypes, but they're not mass produced yet, although people can buy it and test it.
The problem is that NUADA can hold up to 40 kgs, which is a lot. Regarding the prototype mechanism, you have to choose between high or low precision.
Each prototype is very expensive and, with COVID-19, we had to look for domestic investors for a while. The financing is a huge problem that we have to deal with, but we're happy that we found people who support us.
Jeff Hiserman – Where do you see this sector of wearables in the next 5 years?
Filipe Quinaz – I think NUADA glove is going to be very helpful in bringing exoskeletons in everyday life.
Maybe people are not aware of this, but we are already using them. For instance, the same has already happened with eyeglasses, that started as a necessity and are now a piece of design.
I think exoskeletons like NUADA will be the future and, in 2 or 3 years, it will stop being a novelty.