Revolutionary earbuds developed in Vancouver to dramatically change life for disabled.
Miro Cernetig, cofounder and brand strategist of Naqi, with Sam Sullivan in Vancouver. Naqi Earbuds, are a made-in-Vancouver game-changer for those who need assistive technology.PHOTO BY NICK PROCAYLO
Imagine you could move an object with your eyes or transport yourself with the slightest shift of a muscle. It sounds like the stuff of magic, but thanks to Naqi Logix, a Vancouver tech company, that magic is now a reality.
The Naqi technology is an invisible human-to-machine interface that uses gyroscopic sensors and biosensors to read nearly imperceptible body movements — the tilt of a head, the blink of an eye — to send signals that can control virtually any smart device.
It enables the user to use any digital device and navigate virtual worlds, AR/VR (augmented/virtual reality) and the metaverse, as well as hard technologies like wheelchairs.
No brain implant, no hands, no voice or screens are required. The non-invasive technology can be tucked into earbuds, eyeglasses or virtually any wearable medium and operates via bluetooth
Time Magazine named the technology one of their Best Inventions of 2023, but it’s unique in another way too: This visionary technology was dreamed up and patented in America by tech inventor David Segal, and brought to Canada for development by a local entrepreneur Mark Godsy.
“It’s a true Canadian tech story,” said Naqi’s co-founder and brand strategist, Miro Cernetig, “one of the rare times you see a Canadian company bringing ideas from the U.S. and building them here.”
Naqi tapped former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, who is quadriplegic, to test drive a custom-made set of Naqi earbuds with the device — which is about the size of a Tic Tac breath mint — embedded inside.
Sullivan said it took just seconds to master the technology.
Naqi tapped former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, who is quadriplegic, to test drive a custom-made set of Naqi earbuds, and hes pictured here with company cofounder Miro Cernetig.PHOTO BY NICK PROCAYLO .
“Right away I was able to turn in my wheelchair, go back and forth and do all these fine adjustments and motions. It was easy, immediate and intuitive.”
Sullivan called it a “game-changer” for members of the disabled community, something that could replace traditional sip-and-puff technology that many disabled users find fatiguing and cumbersome. “You have to have this thing in your mouth, you have to be able to sip and to puff,” said Sullivan.
“This offers opportunities to turn heat on and off, adjust volume on television, or perform a wide variety of functions just through tilting the head, or moving a muscle in the eye or the jaw,” said Sullivan. “For quality of life, all people with disabilities are dependent on technology. The better the technology, the better the quality of life.”
“I’ve been looking for this all my life,” said Sullivan.
For Sullivan, it’s even better that Vancouver is where this technology is being developed, tested and built.
“Vancouver has been on the forefront of inclusive design, and has a history of community heroes like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. It makes sense if we could brand Vancouver as a centre for innovation in tech related to accessibility,” said Sullivan.
Cernetig said that while the Naqi technology will provide assistive technology for those with disabilities, it has major potential for everything from robots, gaming and driving, to construction, robotics or assisting first-responders. “We can’t even imagine all the ways in which it can be used.”
The technology may be based in Vancouver, but now it’s an international story: Naqi is valued at $100 million. And that’s just the beginning.
“We’re not an earbud maker,” said Cernetig. “This is a technology and software that can be licensed to whatever sector that wants to use it for whatever purpose they can find.”
Fittingly, Naqi is named for the Annunaki gods, which ancient Sumerians believed controlled everything in the universe.