Gharib Gharibi is driven to succeed by a desire to pay it forward, he said, riding a high from his startup’s first-place, $20,000 win at UMKC’s Regnier Institute Venture Creation Challenge.
“They helped us transform our technology from the computer lab to the real world,” Gharibi, founder of DeepLens and a UMKC PhD student, said of the role the school and its resources have played in bringing his artificial intelligence-fueled concept to life.
“We still need to improve and add several features, but the overall reaction from people who are visually impaired has been really encouraging to continue our work,” Gharibi said, noting he hopes launch the product next year.
Click here for highlights from the Venture Creation Challenge.
Inspired by a blind friend in Saudi Arabia, Gharibi launched the company which uses artificial intelligence to help the visually impaired navigate the world around them. Deeplens prototype wearable features camera-mounted glasses that process their surroundings and report the findings back via earpiece.
The product also could be used in classrooms, helping visually impaired students visualize what’s lighting up computer screens or being written on whiteboards, Gharibi said.
Students themselves, the DeepLens team — including Gharibi’s brother, Mohamed Gharibi; and friend, Saria Goudarzvand, who are also working toward their PhDs — has received tremendous support and mentorship as a result of the Venture Creation Challenge and UMKC’s commitment to innovation, he explained, noting he’s ready to take the technology beyond the confines of the school’s campus and build on the momentum of the $20,000 win — a prize awarded in partnership with BlueKC, recognizing innovation in community-oriented, healthtech products.
“I hope that our startup launches soon and attracts good support from KC! I greatly believe that KC is one of the top entrepreneurship hubs in the nation,” Gharibi explained of his belief that Kansas City’s startup ecosystem has all the necessary ingredients to grow DeepLens into the next great, healthtech disruptor.
Click here for a glimpse into mentorship opportunities offered at the UMKC Bloch School.
Taking his plans one step further, Gharibi also hopes to build an AI community in the metro, following his planned graduation in December, he said.
“This product, in particular, intertwines my AI programming skills with my passion for helping others,” he said, noting the importance of finding something you love and using it to make the world a better place.
As DeepLens is further realized, Gharibi now turns to Kansas Citians in need of a solution, he explained.
“We need the community to help us increase the visibility of our technology; we need people who are visually impaired to know about DeepLens and how it can support them,” he said, adding that one of the startups early-stage challenges has been finding trial users.
Gharibi is also looking for investors who can help accelerate the development of DeepLens, he said.
“It’s really inspiring to work on a product that will help people who are visually impaired to become more independent,” Gharibi said, eager that local investors will see the same value in DeepLens and take a chance on the product.