Founder Spotlight: Lili Qiu
Recently, DivInc launched our Founder Spotlight blog series where every month, we showcase a different DivInc alumnus. This month, we’re proud to feature Lili Qiu, a UT Professor and founder of Hauoli, a technology company that develops acoustic-based motion tracking technology and applications. An expert on wireless and mobile systems, Lili has been named an ACM Fellow, IEEE Fellow and ACM Distinguished Scientist. She’s earned a National Science Foundation Career Award and a Google Faculty Award. Further, she has served as Vice Chair for ACM Sigmobile; Technical Program Committee Co-Chair for ACM MobiCom, IEEE ICNP and IEEE SECON; and Editor for IEEE Transactions on Networks and IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing.
In our conversation below, she discusses her company and path to entrepreneurship.
Tell us about your company.
Lili Qiu: Hauoli develops acoustic-based motion tracking technology and applications. Our vision is to revolutionize how users will interact with the world. By simply moving your hand, you can control games, VR, AR, TVs, lights, drones and much more.
While there have been a number of gesture recognition and motion tracking products, our motion tracking is unique in that it enables mm-level tracking accuracy without extra hardware; it is energy efficient, privacy preserving and can work around occlusion. You can achieve it by simply running our app.
Below are a few games built on top of our motion tracking technology. Different from traditional mobile games, you can play our games by moving your hand. As you can see, tracking is intuitive, accurate, and responsive. It is also easy to use by simply replacing the original swipe input with our tracking. So game developers can easily incorporate our motion tracking into their games by using our SDK.
You can also view video demos here:
We have several pending patents on our tracking technology, including one that will be issued shortly. We’ve demoed our technology at CES 2018, SXSW 2016-2018 and research conferences. We’re thankful for the significant recognition we’ve received, such as earning 1st prize at UCAHP (7th Annual North America Chinese Startup Contest), being chosen as a Top 10 Finalist at Women Who Tech, being selected as a Top 8 Finalist at CMU Summit on US-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship and much more.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
LQ: I led my PhD students to develop acoustic motion tracking as a research project. After presenting and demoing our work, we found there are significant commercial applications that can benefit from our technology. Boris Smus, VP of VR at Google, commented that our technology makes tracking a possibility cheaply for any smartphone, which is huge. Our in-person interviews with nearly 200 users and developers also suggested there is a significant market potential for motion tracking technology. This led to the formation of Hauoli.
The startup journey is challenging. It takes a village to build a successful business. I feel so fortunate that I am surrounded by remarkable researchers, engineers and business experts. They are all passionate about transforming the results from a research lab to a product that can impact people’s lives.
I was so happy that I was introduced to Preston James who later invited me to DivInc. DivInc offered a wonderful learning experience and supportive environment for first-time entrepreneurs. I learned a lot from DivInc’s experienced business leaders, intensive pitch practice, informative workshops and great networking opportunities.
I would also like to thank the National Science Foundation for its great support. I thank my team in particular, Yi-Chao Chen (co-founder), Michael Nguyen, Wenguang Mao and Wei Sun for their dedication and great contributions to the technology. I am grateful to Bob Metcalfe, Preston James, Doug Stoakley, Kevin MacVittie, Sriram Vishwanath, Louise Epstein and Dana Abramovitz for their wonderful mentorship on the business side and UT for creating a supportive environment for faculty to commercialize technology. Capital Factory and DivInc have provided us invaluable opportunities to learn from top-notch business mentors and interact with potential customers.
What are your goals looking forward?
LQ: We are working with a few companies to apply our technology to a range of exciting applications including gaming, AR/VR, IoT and location services. We are also looking forward to demoing at CES 2019 and SXSW 2019 and excited about the new opportunities they will bring.