July 21, 2021
Meet the Catalyst 2021 Semifinalists: Parrots
Parrots Founder David Hojah’s aunt died from multiple sclerosis. A friend and a mentor both continue to struggle with the disease. He witnessed firsthand the torture of the neurological disorder, which often robs patients of the ability to speak—but he knew that technology could alleviate some of their suffering by maximizing their independence.
That led Hojah to create Parrots Inc. and Polly, an AI-enhanced assistive parrot that sits perched on a user’s wheelchair. Polly helps gives users a 360-degree field of vision. Through wireless, Polly helps enhance their ability to communicate, uplifts their sense of freedom, and gives them more control over their environment. The bird design comes from Hojah’s love of birds and their association with empowerment and freedom.
“Many people lose the ability to speak due to things like multiple sclerosis, ALS, or paralysis because of accidents,” Hojah said. “In our opinion, technology is the cure—so many perceived limitations of disability are simply where the world has failed to adapt to the needs of the individual.”
Polly is built with wireless technology that utilizes everything from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to LTE, and harnesses the power of 5G connectivity indoors and outdoors. Polly robots are plug-and-play devices, which can be controlled hands-free through eye-tracking or other abilities switches. They perch, like a parrot, on the back of a wheelchair. The Parrots come programed with five values, which the company calls the five C’s:
- Communication –an AI/MK smart communication system with intuitive prediction is four times faster than current assistive apps.
- Control –a 360-degree camera helps users navigate and gives them panoramic computer vision in real-time.
- Connectivity – the device is compatible with smart home devices, and are built to understand the sounds and visuals in their environments.
- Compatibility – Polly is compatible with all existing assistive switches.
- Caregiving – The device relieves some of the burden placed on caregivers and healthcare professionals, maximizing independence and reducing paid caregiver costs by up to 20%.
As Parrots Inc. continues to grow, they aim to become the leaders in assistive technology in North America and Europe. They are working to have their products covered by insurance, and are prioritizing making them an accessible solution in low-income areas. The Foundation is pleased to highlight their work with such innovative technology, and watch how they continue to harness wireless capabilities to improve peoples’ lives.
A grants program for social entrepreneurs accelerating wireless innovation for health and well-being.