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Local Startups, UNCW Professor To Be Featured At State Technology Conference

By Jenny Callison, posted Apr 12, 2018
Two Wilmington technology startups will be swimming with the sharks in early May, the NC Technology Association (NC Tech) announced Thursday in a news release.

Brain injury assessment company Sportgait and Ten8Tech, an instant-communications company, are two of the six young ventures invited to be part of Startup Showcase at NC Tech’s State of Technology conference, to be held May 4 at the Durham Convention Center.

Noting that the showcase is one of the conference’s popular features, NC Tech officials stated in the release that this year the showcase will “highlight six NC-headquartered tech startups with an innovative product or service making waves. They will compete in a ‘shark tank’ style demo, and the audience will rank companies to determine the winner of a startup prize package.”

Sportgait, housed in University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), has taken proprietary algorithms developed by University of Virginia faculty member Mark Williams and paired his research with complementary research done by UNCW professors Julian Keith and Len Lecci, according to Sportgait CEO Chris Newton.

Sportgait used that research to develop what it calls its “brain physical.” It’s a test battery to help physicians assess brain health following a patient’s head injury, Newton said, adding that the Sportgait’s three-part battery consists of neuro-psychological, gait and balance assessments.  

Sportgait spokeswoman Keller Rawers said Sportgait’s “brain physical” has been adopted by Medac Health, by a New Hanover Regional Health Center pediatric practice, and by UNCW, where it’s available to any student who has suffered a head injury.

Sportgait is a model for what can happen when the university’s research is combined with the resources available through the CIE: development of a product that can be commercialized, Newton said.

This year’s State of Technology conference will focus on artificial intelligence and will open with a keynote presentation from Martin Fleming, IBM’s chief analytics officer and chief economist.

The two Wilmington startups are not the only local representatives at the conference. Curry Guinn, chair of UNCW’s Department of Computer Science, will be among the conference panelists. Artificial intelligence is one of his areas of focus, and he’ll discuss benefits and disadvantages of that technology.

“One of my goals at this conference is to help ground the conversation in reality – what really is possible given the current technology, and what we might expect in the near future,” Guinn wrote in an email Thursday. “Because of science fiction, people are ready to believe that we are close to a future where Arnold Schwarzenegger-style Terminators and Skynet are going to take over our lives and threaten human existence. While I believe that such a future is implausible, there are some legitimate concerns about automation and privacy that need to be discussed.

“My experience with over 30 years of AI research and collaboration with other researchers at UNCW gives me some perspective on where we have been, where we are now, and where we are headed in the near future.”  

For more information about NC Tech's State of Technology conference, click here.
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