Harrisburg Startup Developing Brain-Powered Software

Harrisburg Startup Developing Brain-Powered Software

July 27, 2018

Dave Segal believes his company is on the verge of launching a major breakthrough in wearable technology, one that could have a significant impact on the medical, military and gaming worlds.

Segal, a York County entrepreneur, is the founder of Naqi Logics, a tech startup that has developed a patented command system to allow people to control computers and other devices with their minds. Segal believes the thought-controlled operating system, or software, will allow people to communicate with devices without looking at or touching them.

“There is no other logic framework like it,” Segal said.

The software is designed to run on an electroencephalography, or EEG, headset.

Commonly used in health care as a way to chart brain activity and spot abnormalities, EEG headsets used electrodes placed on a person’s scalp to measure electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain.

People wearing an EEG headset running the Naqi software can use their thoughts to send commands to computers or other smart devices connected to the headset.

In recent years, EEG headsets have been used to help control high-tech devices such as prosthetic limbs for amputees. Stories about those uses are what led Segal, a tech executive who previously founded and sold two other startup companies, to begin exploring his latest venture.

He recently introduced the idea to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology officials and moved into the university’s Blackberry Technology Center in the capital to develop the business.
Market opportunities

As devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches gain mass appeal, Segal believes the biggest opportunity for Naqi Logics may be in the market for wearable and implantable devices, such as tools that help doctors monitor patients remotely.

Naqi Logics is currently in the process of raising money from investors — $1.5 million is Segal’s goal — and looking to go beyond EEG headsets.

Segal aims to develop a prototype earbud that would take commands from micro-gestures, like subtle nose or jaw movements, to communicate with connected devices such as computers and appliances with remote monitoring capabilities.

The early earbud product would be similar to a hearing aid. Segal believes later versions will be even smaller and fit inside a person’s ear for more covert communications.

It will be able to detect a user’s subtlest movements to execute non-verbal commands, Segal said. “We’re building the earbud because the technology doesn’t exist.”

For gamers, imagine instant input and being able to aim and immediately move or shoot where they look on the screen.

For the military, the earbud could help special operations soldiers communicate in the field without having to use voice or hand signals — a tech-assisted telepathy.

For severely handicapped people, such as quadriplegics, Segal believes the earbud could replace assistive technologies like the sip-and-puff, which sends signals to a device through air pressure on a straw.

“There is potential in lots of areas, especially for those who don’t have the use of their limbs,” HU President Eric Darr said.

The university’s esports team, which is making its debut this fall semester, also could benefit from the tech, Darr said.

Over time, Segal believes the proprietary thought-control logic could be licensed and incorporated into other large wearable devices made by big tech companies such as Microsoft, Sony, Google or Apple.

“The tech should and could be put into wearables like the Oculus or Playstation VR,” he said. “It could be used in any head-based wearable.”

Former banking executive and regional angel investor Bob Pullo has helped Segal develop the concept. He sees potential in both the medical and military sectors.

“There are a lot of options for it and it introduces new thinking,” Pullo said.

Pullo, who has cochlear implants to help with hearing loss, said the Naqi earbud also could be embedded in someone’s body.

“It intrigued me a lot because of that,” he said.

The company already has a provisional patent for the earbud.

“I’ve seen a lot of things come and go over the years,” Pullo said. “This is a very fine, well-conceived idea and it’s got a market out there that is the fastest-growing market in the world in IT. I think this is a home run.”