Royal push for gadget giving a voice to the silent
A life-changing Australian device that helps people without speech or movement communicate through electrical impulses has won best Pitch@Palace as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
Peter Ford, a Sydney-based former Seven Network presenter who grew up in Miles in outback Queensland, impressed investors inside St James’s Palace with his three-minute pitch about NeuroNode, a wireless clinical grade bionic system for controlling smartphones and robotics with electrical signals from inside a person’s muscle.
Pitch@Palace is the brainchild of Prince Andrew, who brings together entrepreneurs and investors to help scale up companies.
Mr Ford’s company, Control Bionics, which was kickstarted 12 years ago with a milliondollar investment by seed investors Nightingale Partners, was the Australian entry in a Commonwealth field of 47.
Mr Ford, 67, told the audience how a seven-year-old girl who has a disease that prevents her from speaking or moving was able to master NeuroNode within minutes to spell her name. In her first sentence, she wrote “Can I have a baby sister”.
The room of doctors and family was overcome with emotion as she added “and a puppy”.
Mr Ford explained during his pitch how Stephen Hawking would assist him in developing the product.
At his first trial with Professor Hawking, the product worked.
Said Mr Ford: “I was elated, but he was not and he announced ‘Your software is no good’. Disappointed, I went home and coded, recoded and checked” until it met the great physicist’s standards.
Mr Ford said he was “deeply honoured and humbled” at the royal recognition of his product.
“This has opened up a whole new area for us. The networking and connections that the palace provides speeds it up.”
Mr Ford’s device, which he brought to market last year, is already used by Australasian and US agencies.