An idea to make glasses to help physically challenged people use wheelchairs has won the top prize at the inaugural edition of the Startup Weekend, a global network seeking to inspire startups worldwide, in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang.
The Handy Glass beat nine shortlisted ideas to win the 54-hour weekend event, where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts pitched ideas for new startup companies, formed teams around those ideas, and worked to develop a functioning prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening, according to the Startup Weekend website.
Le Anh Tien, Handy Glass’s founder, said the idea stemmed from his group’s experience in working with community projects in the central city of Hue, around 100km from downtown Da Nang.
The ‘smart glass’ is connected to a sensor on a wheelchair which helps wearers control the movement of the vehicle, according to the founder.
Users who are unable to speak can still manipulate the glass by shaking their head.
“The Handy Glass was the Vietnamese representative at an exhibition at Oxford University,” Tien said. “I also won an M.A. scholarship at Stanford University next year for the product.”
The two top winners of the Da Nang Startup Weekend will receive support from the Vietnam Silicon Valley drive, initiated by the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology, to launch their startups.
The Startup Weekend network is present in more than 400 worldwide cities.
This was the first time the Startup Weekend had reached Da Nang after two Vietnam events this year, in Ho Chi Minh City on May 30 and Hanoi on August 29.
While the startup communities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City mostly focus on technology ideas, the ecosystem in Da Nang is less mature and varies on a wide range from tourism to agriculture, according to Startup Weekend.
Startup Weekend is a not-for-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington, that is sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, Google and Microsoft, according to its website.
As of April 2013, the organization had held 1,068 events involving over 100,000 entrepreneurs across more than 400 cities in over 100 countries, during which more than 8,190 startups were created.