Senior design project turned startup helps keep you awake

Co-founder Jason Gui traveled to China after graduating to work with manufacturers

· June 25, 2014, 6:07 pm   ·  Updated June 26, 2014, 10:51 am

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Throw your coffee away, because one Penn senior design project will soon hit the streets to help you perform daily tasks with optimal efficiency.

Vigo helps its users stay awake by tracking eye and head movements with a device that attaches to the ear, which can vibrate, play a song or light up when it detects you’re getting tired, 2013 Wharton and Engineering graduate and co-founder Jason Gui said.

Vigo also links to its own app, which can show users their energy patterns throughout the day and make suggestions for activities and food choices to ward off tiredness.

Following over 1,000 pre-orders, Vigo will soon be in the hands of late-night studiers, long distance drivers and others who hope to stay awake at important times — and it all started with a senior design project.

“Something that kept coming up in our discussion of what to make was falling asleep in class, since that’s a big concern that a lot of students have,” Gui said. “So we began to work on building a device to help students stay awake in class.”

Following great feedback from judges and industry professionals, the team decided to take their project and deliver it to the public.

Gui moved to China following graduation to work with manufacturers on building a viable product. He faced some hurdles along the way, including adding and dropping additional team members.

“When we built the prototype, we built something that centers around the three of us [who designed the product,] but everyone has a different facial structure,” Gui explained. “We ended up taking a lot of measurements to figure out what the ideal size and shape of the product was. We had to change the design to make it bendable and also refine the electronics.”

Tiantian Zhang, 2013 graduate of the Integrated Product Design masters program, joined the team to help with the production.

“This kind of experience at Penn encouraged me to go to startups and try to run my own business, rather than go to a big company like Google,” Chang said.

Before long, the team launched its 45-day-long Kickstarter campaign, which will fund production in San Francisco and the start of shipping in September.

The team has found that their product especially attracts professional drivers, since it could help prevent drowsiness and keep drivers awake and safe behind the wheel.

The team is currently in talks with UPS, FedEx, taxi companies and other businesses that employ long distance drivers, in the hopes of arranging contracts with some of them by the end of the year.

“Vigo has a bright future,” Zhang said. We’re really a hot topic in Silicon Valley.”

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