The two early-career researchers met at the 2018 Falling Walls Lab Finale. In our interview, they speak about their joint project and the benefits of interdisciplinary cooperations.
What is your project about and how is it different than other existing research in its field?
Marcus: Eyetalk is a mobile app that enables communication through eye commands such as blinking or looking in a certain direction. The app has an automatic keyboard where each key blinks, one at a time, so that the user can interact with the app when they want to type the desired key. Existing solutions for people with different health conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, ALS, are either too expensive or hard to use. We want to offer a free, easy-to-use solution that is available for most Android/iPhone users, so that everyone can exert their human right to communicate.
Anna: Our device, which detects the presence of medicine in breastmilk, will prevent mothers from breastfeeding with contaminated breastmilk, and help women control their health, as well as the health and future of their babies. Moreover, our device is very useful for environmental control, such as assessing the quality of water, and food control, for example if someone has a gluten intolerance. The application can be downloaded for free and is easy to use.
What first inspired you to participate in a Falling Walls Lab?
Marcus: I was inspired by the opportunity to be around people who want to change the world, or at least take a step toward a brighter future. Furthermore, Germany is one of the top innovation countries, which is very inspiring for entrepreneurs.
Anna: I heard about Falling Walls Lab for the first time when I was searching for TED Talks on Youtube and found some Falling Walls Lab videos by chance. I was so inspired by the talks! When I saw the call for applications at my office in Adlershof, I was initially very insecure, but my supervisor supported me and said: “Don’t worry, you can do this!”. When I found out that I won and would participate in the Finale in Berlin, I really believed that I could change the world.
What fascinates you about being a scientist? Why do you feel the need to share your work?
Marcus: There is no progress without science. Being able to contribute to society through my work and discoveries is very fulfilling.
Anna: When I call myself a scientist, I feel that I’m a person who is working on something to create a better world. It’s a great feeling when someone listens to my talks and is positively affected by my work.
Please tell us about your cooperation. What are you two working on?
Marcus: Anna is a great example of a talented young entrepreneur. She has developed a technology that detects if breastmilk is safe for breastfeeding, which can be an area of concern if the mother is taking medication. The results of this test are expressed in both colors and numbers of stripes. We want to develop a mobile app that will be easy to use, will help the mother keep track of the results, and provide important information on her breastfeeding.
Anna: My talk was right after Marcus’ talk and I was amazed by his application. I asked him how he created it — since I’m working with applications as well, I was very interested in his work. During our conversation, he proposed that we could try to implement my project in Brazil, so we had a Skype call two weeks after the Conference. We are trying to make my application more accessible and easier to use, with a customer-friendly design. Marcus helps me a lot through his know-how. I was recently invited to the “Chemistry Pitch Day” in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where I presented the results that we are working on. I won the first prize, which shows how important our cooperation is.
How did the Falling Walls Lab help you develop your research (idea) further?
Marcus: Falling Walls Lab helped me in many ways. First of all, the visibility I got from participating was incredible. I had a 400% increase of profile views in LinkedIn and more than 1K post views. Furthermore, all the feedback I got from participants really helped me improve my solution. I have also received many interview opportunities – DWIH São Paulo (FWL Brazil organisers) and Falling Walls have continuously given me opportunities to promote my technology. One of the most incredible things about the Lab is not just the event itself, but the continuous support and the development program afterwards.
Anna: Some investors and even big multinational companies contacted me after the Lab Finale because they were very interested in my product, so Falling Walls Lab doesn’t just end after you’ve given your presentation. I was surrounded by so many young international scientists who really inspired me through their interdisciplinary research. Falling Walls Lab showed me how important my work is — it is a great platform for bringing our research to the world. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance!
Marcus Lima pitching his idea during Falling Walls Lab Brazil