A wireless smart headset can track brain waves, facial muscles and eye movements, thereby helping to regulate and improve the quality of sleep. This is a product implemented from the project "Developing Earable - Smart wearable devices to monitor and improve sleep quality" by Prof. Dr. Vũ Ngọc Tâm (Colorado Boulder University, USA).
The project has just been awarded a VNĐ10 billion (US$430,848) grant by Vingroup’s VinTech Fund with the desire to bring "the best technology of Vietnamese people to Vietnamese people".
Good equipment, 200 times cheaper
- How did the idea of earable technology come about?
Sleep accounts for about a third of the total life time of each person. In other words, sleep is very important. But statistically, up to 2.1 billion people around the world (about 27 per cent) have sleep problems. There have been many solutions to help solve this problem but they are not yet popular due to some barriers – they’re either too expensive, or annoying for users. That's why we have researched Earable for the past four years.
Earable is a wireless smart headset that tracks brain waves, facial muscles, and eye movements in real time. A special feature is the compact design, user friendliness and cheap price.
- After four years of research, what stage is the Earable project at?
With a team of experts in technology, health, product development and manufacturing, the Earable prototype has been clinically tested in a US hospital with an accuracy of about 95 per cent compared to the most modern equipment today, while the price is 200 times cheaper.
In the near future, we will continue to improve software and hardware and enhance product quality testing in real environments through three steps: laboratory testing at Colorado Boulder University, testing with home users and large-scale patient trials in hospitals in the US and Việt Nam.
In Việt Nam, we hope to be able to expand cooperation with the HCM City Medicine and Pharmacy University as well as hospitals and specialised doctors in order to increase the scale of testing.
The value of VinTech Fund cannot be calculated in cash
- Having been sponsored by Google, NSF and some organisations in Silicon Valley with a total of nearly $3 million for research and product development, why do you intend to start this project in Việt Nam instead of the US?
I wish Earable could be commercialised in different markets. Particularly for start-ups, in the US, we have access to many resources and support environments for tech start-ups, from research, design, investment funds and especially human resources, both expert and advisory team.
However, I feel that the start-up environment in Việt Nam is getting better and better, especially as the Government is focusing on and creating many policies to encourage start-ups. I also appreciate young human resources in Việt Nam, especially in software.
The success of many technology companies founded by Vietnamese in Silicon Valley, such as Misfit, Got It, Emotive and OhmiLabs, based on the Vietnamese workforce also gave me inspiration to start a business in Việt Nam in the belief that Earable can become a technological device invented by Vietnamese people, manufactured using Vietnamese advanced technology and pioneering in supporting Vietnamese people.
- In research and commercialisation, the right time is important. So what is the predestined relationship between Earable and VinTech Fund?
I learned about VinTech through some friends and read more in the newspapers. The goal of VinTech Fund is to "bring products from the lab to the market" and operate on the foundation of the Applied Research Support Fund which is completely consistent with the strengths we have.
And the value that VinTech Fund brings to Earable cannot be calculated in money. VinTech Fund gives us the opportunity to access Vingroup's multidisciplinary ecosystem and a large network of partners, creating many conditions for us to test and improve before being commercialised. Specifically, potential partners who can cooperate and support Earable in Vingroup include VinBrain, VinSmart and Vinmec.
In addition, VinTech Fund's management unit, VinTech City, also has many cooperation programmes with universities in Việt Nam to search for technological talent. The Fund's team of experts and VinTech City also have extensive experience in supporting start-ups as well as having a network of partners in the start-up ecosystem in Việt Nam and the region.
- How do you expect your dedication project to contribute to users in Việt Nam?
We believe that Earable will become an effective assistive device, which not only improves sleep, improves labour efficiency but also helps patients with pathological signs such as difficulty sleeping, epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). On the other hand, Earable is expected to be applied in many other fields such as helping users increase interaction with computers, controlling hearing aids, detecting driver distraction and reducing traffic accidents.
In the future, when Earable technology is brought to life, we believe it will contribute to a healthier, more active and productive life for everyone and I really want Vietnamese people to be the first to enjoy the results.
Prof. Dr. Vũ Ngọc Tâm was born in 1983. He graduated from Hanoi University of Technology and received a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Rutgers University (USA). In 2013, Tâm was invited to work at the University of Colorado as the founder and director of the MNS laboratory at the university. Prof. Tâm has won the NSF CAREER award. He has also twice been awarded the prestigious "Google Faculty Research Award" by Google. He has registered 22 patents at the US’s Intellectual Property Enforcement and founded two companies, Now Vitals and Earable in the US.
Earable Development - A smart wearable device that monitors and improves sleep quality is the latest project of Tâm. The project has just received a maximum funding of VNĐ10 billion from VinTech Fund in the first round of funding worth VNĐ86 billion for 12 outstanding projects in science and technology.