GestureLogic's LEO launch starts strong

Ottawa’s GestureLogic has launched a new product the wearable technology company says will allow users to stay healthy while maintaining an active lifestyle.

While the product, called LEO, was officially launched Monday, a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo began June 27. In three days, the company has raised just over $18,000 – more than 36 per cent of its $50,000 goal.

“It’s going very well,” said CEO Dr. Leonard MacEachern, “especially considering it’s the long weekend. Not too many people are around.”

While Dr. MacEachern did have some concerns about whether IndieGogo would reach the company’s target market, those questions seem to have been put to rest.

There is no question of his confidence in the product itself.

“Our device is extremely science-based. There’s no hocus-pocus,” he said.

LEO, which is usually strapped to a person’s leg, uses sensors to track things like muscle activity and lactic acid levels and displays the data on a smartphone app. With that information, it warns users if they are doing something in their workout that could lead to injury.

The IndieGogo campaign refers to LEO’s mentions in scientific journals and shows videos of Dr. MacEachern using the device in the lab.

GestureLogic is based at Carleton University, where Dr. MacEachern is an associate professor in the Department of Electronics. The company now has 11 full-time employees, all of whom either are or have been Carleton students.

But it wasn’t always that way. GestureLogic started with just Dr. MacEachern – and the extra pounds he wanted to shed.

“I was a big boy. I was like 300 pounds back in 2004,” he said. “My daughter came along in 2005 and I said, ‘Enough is enough,’ so over seven months I actually lost 110 pounds.”

Dr. MacEachern said he had been using a polar heart rate monitor which worked for him, until he decided he looked “like a stick” and started to beef up by lifting weights.

“I started looking around for the equivalent of a polar heart rate monitor for generalized muscle. It didn’t exist, or at least it didn’t exist at any price point I could afford,” he said.

Dr. MacEachern’s research began in 2006. He said some good students came along to help in 2011, winning engineering and design awards for their work.

JSI Telecom chairman Tom Skinner then donated $40,000, which was used to start commercializing LEO in the summer of 2012. Up until now, the rest of the money has been raised the old-fashioned way: from family and friends.

GestureLogic is targeting runners and cyclists, and Dr. MacEachern said potential customers include anyone from the weekend warrior to the elite athlete.

“The way it’s presented will determine who the target is. We have very simplified displays and that’s for beginners but if you punch through you can get the full data, get to the top-end guys,” he said.

But Dr. MacEachern said the potential for LEO goes well beyond athletics into the world of health care. And with Apple and Google both entering the world of health apps, Dr. MacEachern said GestureLogic will be going down both avenues.

“I love what Google is doing with their upcoming smart watch. It’s ideal for us.” he said.

Cyclists don’t mind the smartphone app so much, but most people would rather have a monitoring device on their wrists, he said.

The future for GestureLogic includes more fundraising and more growth.  

“We’re heavy into due diligence with various angel groups across Ontario,” said Dr. MacEachern. “As soon as we close our next funding deal, we’ll be looking at hiring three to six people. We’re going to hire a team for implementing a cloud server and we need to hire some IOS programmers.”