Pooja Viswanathan is co-founder and CEO of Braze Mobility Inc., which builds innovative technologies to increase safety and independence of individuals with mobility impairment. She has a Ph.D. in robotics and has been conducting research on ‘smart’ wheelchairs for a decade. She is also a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and holds fellowships from AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Brain Institute.
I always felt so strongly about equal opportunities, for freedom for independence that’s something always really resonated very strongly with me and I felt like this is a field where I can really make a difference and something I really believed in.
After her undergraduate degree, she was introduced to the Intelligence Assistive Technology and Systems Lab at the University of Toronto working on an intelligent wheelchair project which propelled her into a Ph.D.
I got my Ph.D. and I was done now right. But there were a few big problems with this entire process. Three problems really; the first problem was that when I doing this study, I found a lot of usability issues but I didn’t have the opportunity to incorporate that feedback into the design, it was out of the scope of the project, I ran out of time and resources and they wanted me to graduate. Number two, I didn’t talk to my first end user until four years after I started developing, had I actually started talking earlier I would have done things differently and something I really regret. The third one, which was probably the scariest thing, was that I realized my research results would end here, I publish the paper and if I didn’t continue forward with this project really nothing is going to happen.
Which led her to form Braze Mobility as she tackles the following questions
How do we improve research and innovation? How do we be more inclusive? The term I mentioned inclusive innovation. How do we talk to not only the end users but their caregivers and clinicians all the stakeholders involved? How do we bring everyone together and solve these problems?
And in May, Braze Mobility and Enables Me hosted an Accessibility Idea-thon to address some of the many challenges of accessibility. You can check out the ideas that were developed by five teams here. Later this summer they will be beta testing their product, so stay tuned!
In this Enables Me Live! talk, Pooja shares her personal experience as a student, researcher, and entrepreneur.