Editor’s note: The GeekWire Awards event has been postponed to May 19.
A rock picker; a weed zapper; a pizza-making robot; augmented reality headsets for industrial workers; and a device to monitor women’s sexual health — one of these innovative gadgets will take home hardware at the 2020 GeekWire Awards.
The Pacific Northwest’s hardware scene often gets overlooked due to the booming software industry, but startups and big companies alike make the region an under-the-radar hotspot for gadgets. Past winners of the Hardware of the Year award include Bardy Diagnostics’ lightweight heart monitor, Moment’s smartphone camera devices, Microsoft’s Surface Book, Meld‘s smart stove top thermometer, and Poppy’s 3D smartphone device.
This year’s finalists were selected in consultation with leaders of the Seattle tech community. We’ve opened up the voting in 13 award categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 20 judges.
On May 19, we’ll announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
The Seattle startup aims to fill a blind spot that it says has been overlooked by male entrepreneurs: women’s sexual health. The company’s flagship vFit device uses a combination of red light therapy, heat, and sonic vibration to help restore healthy sexual function. It’s an at-home device that can be used on its own or in combination with in-office treatments.
The company raised an additional $7 million last year to bring its total funding to $12 million, with backing from the Alliance of Angels, Belle Capital, Portfolia, Sofia Fund and Kimberly Clark. The company’s business model pulls a page from the Sonicare toothbrush or Clarisonic pore cleanser, selling to customers through physicians in addition to online, and it also landed in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop store last year.
CEO Colette Courtion has a background in medical aesthetics, and she started Joylux with the goal of applying techniques that are commonly used in skincare to sexual health. The company also makes a variety of gels and cleansers.
Led by Paul Mikesell, a University of Washington trained computer scientist who co-founded storage giant Isilon Systems in 2001, the startup is building intelligent robots for agriculture-related applications. One of its first devices is an autonomous robot for weed control; the machine can whack weeds without using herbicides or other chemicals.
Maka Autonomous Robots (Maka-ARS) closed a $8.9 million investment round from Seattle-area firm Ignition Partners and San Francisco-based Bolt in September. The company has kept most of the details of its plans to close to the vest, but Mikesell did note that the startup is working with farmers across the U.S., and its robots will focus on a variety of tasks, beyond weed elimination.
Like fellow award finalist TerraClear, Maka wants to bring more technology to the $5 trillion agriculture industry to simplify farmers’ day-to-day work. Mikesell is bringing his knowledge of deep learning, systems software, robotics to drive the startup’s technology, and he is working with an unnamed co-founder who is a third-generation farmer working on thousands of acres of land in Idaho and Oregon.
The Seattle startup and its pizza making machine made a big impression at CES in Las Vegas this year, serving up snacks for the more than 200,000 people from across the globe who attend the conference. The startup — previously known as Otto Robotics and Vivid Robotics — came out of stealth mode after three years this past October, and it is the latest entrant in a cohort of startups and industry giants trying to find ways to automate restaurant kitchens in the face of slim margins and labor shortages.
The device includes a vision system that reads the size and shape of dough — which is formed by human hands — and can make adjustments if the pie is slightly off-center. Dough moves on a conveyor belt as sauce, cheese, fresh-sliced pepperoni and other topping choices are automatically dropped. Picnic’s platform can churn out up to 300 12-inch customized pizzas per hour.
Picnic raised a $5 million seed round in November led by Creative Ventures, with returning investors Flying Fish Partners and Vulcan Capital. Restaurant owners pay a regular fee in return for the system and ongoing maintenance as well as software and hardware updates.
This Vancouver, Wash. startup makes a head-mounted, voice-controlled augmented devices that project a virtual Android tablet just below line of sight. Industrial workers use the product to do remote video calling, document navigation, guided workflow, mobile forms, and data visualization, among other tasks. The company recently partnered with Tencent to provide a hands-free solution in China’s hospitals amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Last year, RealWear raised an $80 million Series B debt and equity round, bringing its total funding to $100 million. Microsoft is a RealWear partner on the software side, but it also competes with its own industrial augmented reality product, the HoloLens, which is used by organizations such as Airbus and the U.S. Army.
RealWear’s devices differ slightly as they are less immersive — on par with something like the Google Glass Enterprise Edition. Both Microsoft and Google have turned their augmented reality hardware efforts to the enterprise space as the technology has yet to catch on with mainstream consumers.
Based in Bellevue, Wash. and the farming community of Grangeville, Idaho, the startup uses advanced technology to help farmers clear rocks from fields. Drones survey the fields, a neural network classifies and maps rocks, and then automated machinery extracts them.
Last year, TerraClear raised a $6.1 million funding round led by Madrona Venture Group to bring its lifetime total to more than $13 million since launching in December 2017. The company is led by Brent Frei, the former CEO of Onyx Software who co-founded Smartsheet in 2005.
The startup opened a fully outfitted lab and test facility last spring in Grangeville, a town of 3,000 where Frei grew up and where his family still farms. He got the inspiration for the company when he returned to Grangeville after stepping aside from running day-to-day operations at Smartsheet and spent time picking rocks out of fields.
A big thanks to our longtime awards presenting partner, Wave Business, for supporting this fun community event. Also, thanks to gold and category sponsors: BECU, BCRA, Blink, EY, JLL, Premera, Slalom, and WSGR. And to our supporting sponsors First Tech Federal Credit Union, Bader Martin, Akvelon, Flyhomes, Funko and Moz. If interested in sponsoring a category or another component of the GeekWire Awards, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.