You canControlling technical systems with the help of thoughts – for many people this still sounds like science fiction. But it is already reality. Our Startup of the Week SNAP GmbH develops products and services in exactly this area: the interface between the human brain and technical systems. Sinah Grube from SNAP GmbH explained to us in an interview how exactly this works and what SNAP GmbH contributes to the development.
Hello Sinah! Thank you for taking the time for us today. Please explain what SNAP GmbH does.
We at SNAP GmbH, based in the BioMedicineCentre in Bochum, concentrate on the development of products and services in the following areas brain-computer interface (BCI systems), artificial intelligence (AI systems), data hosting, technical assistance systems and motion analysis.
Your vision lies in the field of brain-computer interfaces. How does that work?
The BCI is an interface from the human brain to a technical system, such as a computer or a mobile phone. In electroencephalography (EEG), we place electrodes on the scalp to record the activities of the brain. The neurological data obtained can be used to control technical systems in the environment through the pure thoughts of the human being. The possible applications are immense and offer great potential for the future (e.g. from the entertainment industry to health care). We are currently also part of two funded projects in this area, VAFES and ReXo, which are supported by the State of NRW and the European Union.
At ReXo project workers develop a biomechanically designed, adaptive exoskeleton for the upper extremities. In that project SNAP enables control of the rexoskeleton via the brain. Our goal is the training of a very well-functioning AI solution for a BCI. So SNAP GmbH decided right from the start to evaluate kinematic data for various fields of application. Thus we are not only AI specialists in the field of neurological data, but also in the evaluation of kinematic data. One example of an AI solution is our AI-based motion detection system, which we call AnaKin (analytical kinetics).
For motion analysis, we have developed our own in-house sensors that are attached to the body for data acquisition. The AnaKin records the movements of the wearer and memorises certain movements. Of course, it is also possible to purchase our own portable sensors, so that the movement data can be individually trained with the AnaKin. The trained AI can recognise whether, for example, a person carries out a movement correctly or not. On customer request SNAP GmbH as a service provider also offers pattern recognition and motion analysis on AI basis of already existing data sets recorded with external sensors. In addition to movement tracking, there is also the possibility of pure gesture control with our sensors. Only with a wristband equipped with our described sensors, gesture control becomes reality. With this, smartphones, games, tablets, drones can be controlled by a single wipe with the hand in the air.
This is really an exciting field. What makes you stand out from your competitors?
In fact, there are very few companies in Germany that develop BCI systems, so we as a company are already extremely interesting for external partners and investors. In addition, we record and analyse neurological data synchronously with kinematic data. This combination is also not always common.
Our motion analysis with our self-developed sensors offers the user considerable added value, asan inertial sensor transmitted the data wirelessly. Consequently, mobile use is also possible outside a laboratory. You can easily attache the sensor to the body with straps. An app collects and analyses the data. Furthermore, a USP in motion analysis is the connection to our individual AI solution. With regard to our digital assistance system, it can be said that we have the special feature here that our therapy platform is used in telemedical care. For example, doctors and physiotherapists can view the course of movement and training data.
The trend towards video consultation hours will also increase more and more due to the current Covid-19 situation. Digital and AI-based assistance systems will provide an optimal basis for this. A very noteworthy point is, of course, that all neurological as well as kinematic data will be stored in Bochum and processed in compliance with DSGVO.
In addition to our products and services, the people behind the scenes at SNAP are unique. We are an intercultural, young, dynamic team that works every day with a great technical passion to invent technology that enhances our capabilities, our community and our world.
How do you integrate your solutions into a successful business model?
In the field of brain-computer interfaces we receive many interesting and individual enquiries for the development of new business fields. In the case of specific enquiries, we work together within the framework of development contracts. Furthermore, we are currently being supported in the BCI area by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Union within the framework of two funding projects, VAFES and REXO.
Our business model for processing kinematic data is similar to our BCI. The customer can choose between two options within the first meeting:
- The customer buys SNAPs specially developed sensors, which they need for data acquisition of the movements. Subsequently, an AI solution for the motion data is trained with our sensors in a customised service.
- The customer does not need any sensors, as data records from external sensors are already available. Therefore, we only train an AI for the existing motion data with the AnaKin individually according to customer requirements.
We market our digital assistance system, the IRhythmic, as a training device and can be purchased from us on the market including a corresponding app.
As our focus is on the health industry, we also offer a prevention course from SNAP GmbH for fall and movement prevention. The statutory health insurance companies usually pay for almost the complete prevention course.
An important note to all investors: We are always on the lookout for further investors, as venture capital can greatly accelerate the development of the BCI for the consumer market.
You just mentioned that you focus on the health industry. Are these the only potential clients you are addressing?
We address a very large target group with our products and services. Our focus is on the entire healthcare sector as well as the games industry. In the healthcare sector we can offer a grandiose added value in the area of prevention as well as rehabilitation. In the games industry, on the other hand, we can offer interactions with computer games, for example. We are currently gaining a foothold in the German market. For the future we cannot and do not want to exclude international marketing.
What stage of development are you currently in? And where do you want to go?
Very good question – because there is actually something from every development phase in our company. Our vision is and remains that we will develop a robust, intuitively operable BCI system that recognises and implements commands from the brain – a kind of “Siri” for thoughts. Due to our unique selling points, we have already received several requests for such a BCI system. So far, we can only process relatively simple commands with the BCI and are still bound to the computer. We want to become more precise so that, for example, a paraplegic person can move his hand – or legs – as naturally as possible with the help of an exoskeleton.
The next step is to transfer the AI (for neurological data) to portable devices. On the other hand, we have already successfully launched our sensors for motion analysis with the motion recognition system AnaKin. The same applies to our digital assistance system – the IRhythmic. Here we are in good contact with health insurance companies. End customers, such as hospitals and physiotherapists already use the training device. Our certified prevention course is also already successfully conducted online. Our sponsored projects, ReXo and VAFES, got off to a good start at the beginning of the year and we are on schedule here with our cooperation partners and are thus keeping on course.
Sinah, thank you very much for the exciting interview. We will definitely continue to follow SNAP’s developments and wish you continued success!
If you would like to learn more about SNAP GmbH, please visit their Innoloft profile.