The Company

Nautilus Beam was formed at a Design in Action Technology Accelerator "Chiasma" (the word means "crossing" in Greek, but in this case it is used to describe a method of collaborative innovation, and the point at which ideas are formed and created). The aim of the process was to bring a diverse group of people together that possess complementary skills and domain expertise, with a view to helping them collaborate to form ideas that can be turned into successful commercial ventures. Those who attended included computer scientists, academics from different fields, entrepreneurs, and designers. The two-day workshop followed a tried and tested format of ideation, team formation, and pitching in front of a panel of judges. The entire process was organised and facilitated by DIA. The team that won the innovation challenge was awarded £30,000 and later became Nautilus Beam Ltd. The funds were used to incorporate the company and build a proof of concept, which after several iterations, became Tusi. The name of the product was devised by the company's design team, and was chosen because it means "touch" in Esperanto.

The Team

Our talented team of designers, engineers and award winning domain experts (3 PhDs, 2 MBAs, 6 MScs) possess a unique blend of relevant skills and industry know-how. During the short time they have been working together they have already developed several patent-pending technologies (view team bios).

The Product

The product, in its current form, is an early beta that enables Android Wear powered smartwatch owners to send and receive messages directly from their wrist. It comes with a unique keyboard interface that the company plans to license to smartwatch OEMs, and third party messaging app developers. Tusi's keyboard is powered by Flexpansion, a leading word prediction and abbreviation expansion technology, that uses Artificial Intelligence to learn as the user types. Over time the accuracy of the word prediction will improve and become even more accurate. Flexpansion also enables Tusi to offer a list of suggestions, or it can be configured to autocorrect, although this feature is currently only available on the smartphone version. One very useful, and unique feature, is word expansion which converts abbreviated input into full text (i.e type "gr8" into your smartwatch, and Tusi (powered by Flexpansion) will expand it to the full word "great"). One further patent-pending feature of Nautilus Beam's revolutionary keyboard is that characters aren't obscured when touched because the selected character is "beamed" to the opposite edge of the screen. The availability of this feature does, however, depend on how the user chooses to configure the keyboard's interface.  

The Market

According to Gartner, sales of smartwatches will total 50.4 million units in 2016, generating revenues of $11.5 billion ($17.5 billion by 2019). The company's research also discovered that smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearable devices. With regards to messaging, it's estimated that 21 billion SMS text messages and 50 billion WhatsApp messages are sent each and every day! That doesn't include the huge volume of messages sent via other apps such as Google Talk, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Many people find the process of reaching for their phone and unlocking it time consuming and tedious. One major benefit of smartwatches is they are easier to access, and generally don't require an unlock code because they are far less likely to get lost or stolen. Unfortunately, however, very few smartwatches available today come with any touchscreen alternative to speech for text input, and there are plenty of situations where this is unsuitable or unreliable. For instance, users can feel socially awkward speaking into their gadgets, especially in public, they lack privacy or find it difficult to be heard in noisy environments, and speech software like SiriGoogle Now and Cortana fail to operate without a reliable data connection. Often then, to be able to send text messages, emails, or use popular chat apps, people need to install third party apps such as Tusi, since OEMs have mostly opted out of offering any. Although it is technically possible to squeeze a full QWERTY keyboard onto a smartwatch, either by increasing form factor (see below), or using a scroll and zoom interface, we don't think it's ideal - especially on round ones! 

The Technology

Tusi is the result of combining industrial strength word prediction technology, developed by Flexpansion, with Nautilus Beam's novel smartwatch interface; designed specifically for tiny touch screens. Tusi does everything you'd expect a touch screen keyboard to do, such as word completion, prediction, and autocorrect, but uniquely it can also be trained to understand your very own abbreviations and vocabulary. It's like having a little robotic assistant inside your smartwatch! Not only does it use Artificial Intelligence algorithms to learn as you type, but as previously stated, it also recognises abbreviated or phonetic words aka "text speak", and expands them. This method of expanding shorthand can reduce the number of characters entered by up to 70%! No prior training is required, and it is especially useful for professionals such as pharmaceutical sales reps, doctors, and lawyers, in fact anyone who uses lengthy words or industry jargon on a regular basis. Over time, Flexpansion allows Tusi to not only learn your personal writing style, resulting in increased prediction accuracy, but it also allows you to store your personalised vocabulary to your device, which can be ported over to other devices.

Our Purpose

Our purpose isn't to pitch touch screen text input against speech-to-text as an input methodology. We don't believe that touch screen keyboards are superior to voice command, but like an increasing number of people who own, or plan to own a smartwatch, we think that end users should be given the ability to use both, as the method of interaction depends on context and personal preference. However, when we asked smartwach owners if they had a preference, many told us they really don't like speaking to their gadgets, particularly when they are in a public or a shared space. Furthermore, when we spoke to potential smartwatch owners, many were surprised and disappointed to discover that almost none of the smartwatches on sale today come with a fully functioning keyboard; that includes the Apple Watch as well as every smartwatch running the Android Wear operating system. To fully operate either type of device, therefore, voice command is a prerequisite. We strongly believe that this is the wrong approach as it represents a barrier to adoption for many people.

Our purpose and primary aim, therefore, is to give every smartwatch owner the ability to get the very most out of their device without being forced to speak out loud to their wrists. If you're one of those people who bought a smartwatch that's now in a drawer or collecting dust somewhere, or you continue to wear it purely for aesthetic reasons - look no further! Tusi will soon enable you to send and receive text messages, reply to emails, and use a text-based chat app that doesn't required speech-to-text. The only method of interaction is tap, touch and swipe.

You can find Tusi on Google Play and download it for free! If you have an Apple Watch, you're out of luck (sad face), but we hope to offer a version of Tusi that will work with it at some point in the not-too-distant future (happy face). If you sign up to our newsletter, we'll keep you updated on our progress (and we promise not to spam you)!  

We hope that one day millions of people will benefit from what Tusi has to offer, but for now we're delighted to serve the few who have decided to give our product a try. Please remember we are a small team, with very modest resources, and please bear in mind that the product is not yet fully developed. If you come across something you don't like, or you think could be improved - please let us know via the contact form. We're here to help, and would very much appreciate your thoughts and feedback. 

Other Opportunities

As the Internet of Things (IoT) gathers pace, connected devices are becoming ubiquitous in our homes, cars, offices, transit systems, and public spaces. In future smart objects will become woven into the very fabric of our daily lives. Adoption is being driven by the consumer electronics industry; almost every product manufactured today now comes connected as standard. The public sector is also fuelling adoption of the IoT, because governments around the world are providing an increased level of political and financial support for "smart city initiatives". Urban planners, architects, transportation companies, and the construction industry are all working together to embed connected sensors throughout every major city, so that data can be collected and analysed that will lead to insights which will make cities of the future more efficient, secure and eco-friendly. 

We are therefore investigating how Tusi could potentially be applied to touchscreen interfaces, not just in the wearables and consumer technology sector, but also in public spaces, public transportation, the enterprise, and the industrial sector. Although other interaction methods, such as voice command and gesture, will continue to grow in popularity, the desire to tap, touch and swipe will not disappear. This is why we believe Tusi could potentially be installed on all kinds of connected devcies from smart domestic appliances, to medical devices and industrial equipment. 

Collaboration Opportunities

We are keen to work with Smartwatch OEMs and Android Wear developers! If your company is building an app or you are a smartwatch manufacturer that needs an advanced text input solution, look no further. Tusi is made up of two components that, for the purposes of this section, we'll call TusiApp and TusiKey. TusiApp is our smartwatch text-based chat app, and it incorporates TusiKey (short for Tusi Keyboard), which features a novel circular or square text input interface, that's powered by Flexpansion word prediction and abbreviation expansion technology. Both Flexpansion and TusiKey can be licensed by OEMs and third party app developers. Tusi is currently only compatible with Android and Android Wear. If you require a keyboard solution designed specifically for tiny touchscreens, please contact us via the form or email us: enquiries at nautilusbeam dot com.