The 8 Coolest Gadgets at Startup Weekend

Teams at the annual startup smack down used 3-D printers, laser cutters and rapid prototyping tools to build models of the products they hope to create

Written by Kate Wilkinson for Canadian Business

This past weekend, Toronto hosted its sixth-annual Startup Weekend competition, an event that invites entrepreneurial engineers, designers and business developers to pitch and produce innovative products within a 54-hour time period. Participants were presented with an added twist this year, as teams had 3-D printers, laser cutters and rapid prototyping tools at their disposal to create physical renderings of the products they hope to produce.

On Sunday, Startup Weekend organizers crowned a champion and two runner-ups, but Canadian Business also had a chance to see what some of the other teams were up to, as well. The editors chose eight of the most interesting devices at this year’s Startup Weekend.


The eight-person Ascend team were runner-ups at Startup Weekend, thanks to their innovative product StableRiser. To help prevent slips and falls, the startup has designed an assistive silicone grip that attaches to the far side of a stair railing. The grip’s placement on the banister hits the hand at the web between an individual’s thumb and pointer finger, encouraging the rest of the fingers to wrap around the back of the railing for a tighter hold. A more complete rendering of the product would fashion the grip out of a hydrophobic material that would help to repel bacteria. StableRiser’s initial target market would likely consist of long-term care facilities, but the team has also considered the housing market by experimenting with a lighting feature that illuminates stairs when someone takes hold of the railing.


For those who feel guilty leaving their pet alone during the day, meet Pawly. This hybrid chew toy/robot, which placed second at Toronto Startup Weekend, allows owners to interact with their pets remotely using their smartphones. Pawly can be moved around by the remote controls in its accompanying app, and comes equipped with both a webcam and a microphone so that pet owners can see what their furry friends are up to and even talk to them from the office. As an added bonus, Pawly has a special compartment that dispenses treats with just a tap of your phone. It can even take pictures and record videos for you to share with family and friends on your Pawly profile page. It remains to be seen if pets will even need owners in the future.


This small device uses a microchip and an accelerometer (which detects movement) to monitor goods as they make their way through the postal service. The final rendering, which the startup hopes to make much smaller, will adhere to the inside of a package carrying valuable goods. If the package is dropped, resulting in a high-impact landing outside the norm, the owner of the package will be alerted through the Shipmetrix website in real time. If the goods are damaged, the owner can pinpoint where it happened and take action accordingly. One of the most interesting potential uses of the Shipmetrix product is the possibility of temperature detection, including humidity levels. If packages are on their way to a disaster relief zone, for example, Shipmetrix would be able to alert those on the receiving end if supplies, including vaccines, have been spoiled before their arrival.


The Parkey team agrees that their product sounds like an Airbnb for parking. Using the mobile-friendly Parkey website, car owners can search for available parking spots in the city. Once they’ve completed a transaction with a parking spot owner online, the Parkey in-car device (pictured) authenticates the driver’s entry into a garage or building. The system requires a Parkey device to also be installed at the door of the building where the rented spot is located.


Similar to the StableRiser, LifeCapsule also has Canada’s aging population in mind. The startup has designed a product for individuals looking to ensure their senior relatives, perhaps ones suffering from memory loss, are taking their medication at the recommended dosage and time. At first glance, the LifeCapsule simply looks like a cradle for a generic drug store pillbox, but there’s a lot more happening in the interior. Sensors placed in the holder measure if the pillbox has been lifted out on a given day and time, and if the compartments have been emptied. The information would then be collected by an Android app that can be accessed by a caregiver.


These beads were declared the winner of Startup Weekend on Sunday. Griflens founder and mother Alison Gibbins wanted to create an interactive toy for children that could be played both online and offline. Each interactive story bead (a sampling is pictured) comes with a barcode that can be scanned and “activated” online, becoming part of a Griflens story-telling game that kids can play at home. Children can then wear their beads on a bracelet to school, telling their friends about the stories they’re creating on Griflens, and even design their own beads to be manufactured and activated by the Griflens team.  Having claimed victory in Toronto, Griflens is now accepting pre-orders and will use the 3-D printer they won at the competition to start manufacturing their product.


AltEat were one of the few teams that didn’t produce a hardware product at Toronto Startup Weekend, but still managed to generate an interesting idea that might appeal to foodies. The AltEat app acts as a database for those with strict diets or bare cupboards. If you’re in the middle of cooking a dish and find you don’t have a required ingredient, or want to get dinner ready and don’t have time to run to the store, AltEat suggests alternative ingredients for the recipe you’re following. It will tell you that white wine risotto can also be made with vinegar, for example, or that chopped cabbage is a viable alternative for a recipe that calls for onions. The app also has suggestions for those following vegan and kosher diets, as well as individuals looking to cut out gluten, to name a few examples.


While many sports have apps that measure athlete performance (such as the distance you ran this morning, or the number of hills you conquered while cycling), water sports are at a bit of a disadvantage. “The problem with surfing is you’re in the ocean and it’s not a great environment to bring your phone,” WaveRider team member Caleb Del Begio says. To help surfers track their longest ride, their top speed, or the best spots to catch a wave, WaveRider has designed a piece of hardware that adheres to a surfboard (similar to a GoPro) and uploads the data it gathers to an app. The hope is that users will share their surf sessions with friends, helping them to compare their performance to others, and leading to a more comprehensive picture of where the best surfing spots are. Aside from targeting surfers, Del Begio imagines that WaveRider could also be of use to wakeboarders, kayakers, or even triathletes.

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