The Eureka Park TechZone at the 2012 International CES, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the nonprofit Startup America Partnership, included more than 100 small, innovative startups and tech entrepreneurs showcasing the latest technologies.
 
To continue the momentum, CEA held the Eureka Park Challenge as part of the CEA Line Shows in New York City in June. The contest featured nine finalists competing for various prizes, including 10×10 booths at the 2013 International CES and show and travel expenses. A panel of four judges and attendees chose one grand prize winner, one second place winner and a fan favorite. Judges included John Backus, founder and managing partner of New Atlantic Ventures; Rick Romel, senior vice president and general manager at Best Buy; Jake Sigal, founder and CEO of Livio Radio; and Dana Wollman, senior reviews editor at Engadget.
Tactus Technology won the grand prize for its Tactile Layer™ panel—a dynamic user interface for mobile, automotive and CE devices. Interbots was selected as runner up for its Popchilla robot therapy platform and Novusport was named fan favorite for its iPhone app and social media website, which allows users to create fantasy sports-style statistics, share their personal “unique sports graphs” and compete with other users.
 

Top Honors

 
The Tactile Layer panel by Tactus Technology is a flat, transparent, dynamic layer that sits on top of the touch sensor and display. “When triggered, our panel creates buttons or shapes of a specific height, size and firmness that appear on the surface,” says Nate Saal, vice president of business development at Tactus. “Users can feel, press down and use these physical buttons just like they would use keys on a keyboard. When they are no longer needed, the buttons recede into the surface and become invisible.”
 
This innovative panel accompanies the explosive growth and popularity of smartphones featuring capacitive touchscreens. solution that helps users interact with them much more naturally, comfortably and safely.”
 
Tactus will receive a 10×10 booth in the Eureka Park Tech- Zone at the 2013 International CES, up to $2,000 in booth space expenses, $3,000 in travel expenses and $5,000 cash. “We were very excited to win the Eureka Park Challenge and look forward to the continued exposure and support we will receive at Eureka Park during the 2013 International CES,” Saal says.
 
“Eureka Park will provide an unparalleled opportunity for us to showcase our technology alongside other cutting-edge technologies and innovations, and to provide consumers a glimpse of what we believe to be the future of touch for consumer electronics.”
 

Helping Children with Autism

 
The second place prize was awarded to Interbots for Popchilla, a touchscreen app. “Popchilla is a robot therapy platform to help children with autism practice social interactions and other daily life skills,” explains Interbots CEO Seema Patel. Children with autism have an affinity for touchscreen devices and research shows they often interact with robots easier than with people. Interbots develops touchscreen apps to help children with autism practice various skills in a fun and engaging way. An interactive robot helps transition skills to the physical world, while a data service offers assessment and progress tracking for parents and therapists.
 
In addition to the Popchilla game, Interbots is developing an expressive, interactive toy robot that reacts and responds to on-screen interaction. “This will serve as a stepping stone to human interaction,” Patel says. There will also be a data system to offer progress tracking and assessment.
 
Patel stresses the uniqueness of Popchilla in the CE industry. “Immersive therapy is really important for children with autism. The more opportunities they have to practice skills, the greater the chances are they will learn them.” For this reason, parents are very interested in products they can use in the home to reinforce skills being taught in formal therapy sessions. The accessibility of Popchilla is also an important factor. “No one has made a robot targeted to consumers. It is important that the community has access to affordable options,” says Patel. Interbots will also receive a 10×10 booth in the Eureka Park TechZone, along with $1,000. “The opportunity to attend
 
CES is huge. We’ve wanted to be an exhibitor for years but it’s been out of our reach. It’s such an important networking and promotional opportunity. We’re super excited to attend as an exhibitor,” says Patel.
 

Eureka Park at CES

 
Finalists note the importance of industry events and the networking opportunities they provide. “The most difficult thing for a startup is fundraising. From an early standpoint, thinking of where your funding is coming from is important,” says Patel. “The Eureka Park Challenge was a really interesting experience, to see what other startups were doing and connect with them.” Saal of Tactus Technology agrees. “Venues such as Eureka Park present a fantastic way to reach out to a variety of potential customers and partners at the same time, all under one roof,” he says. “It’s great to see organizations such as CEA supporting startups and young companies, providing a launching pad to help bring innovation to the public through opportunities such as the Eureka Park Challenge,” he adds.
 
Don’t miss Tactus Technology, Interbots and other innovative startups in the Eureka Park TechZone at the 2013 International CES.