Crowdsourcing Innovation: Matteo Fornacciari, CTO of Laura Sapiens

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour.

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour with something new to offer. Is this a business of the future?

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Matteo Fornacciari

  Job title: CTO

  Organisation: Laura Sapiens s.r.l.

  Location: Mantova (Italy)


Product: Ego! Smartmouse

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What it does & how it works: Ego! Smartmouse is a new generation interaction device.

From the outside it looks like a traditional mouse, but inside the electronics are comparable to those of a smartphone. It's ARM9 400MHz microprocessor, controlled by a Linux operating system, allows the user to take advantage of all the peripherals that surround it.

The user can easily connect to a computer just by taking a picture of the QR code displayed on its screen. It is generated by our free software (ServicePack) that's required to interact with a computer using Ego! Smartmouse.

When the Bluetooth connection is established the user can employ the device as a traditional mouse or as an air mouse thanks to an integrated 9 axis inertial sensor unit. A powerful algorithm automatically recognizes how the user wants to interact and changes between the two modes. It can be used to play or to work.

A special folder on the desktop, installed by our Service Pack, represents the Ego! Smartmouse memory. Just as a wireless memory stick, all the user data appears inside this folder and disappears when the user disconnects from the computer. There is a second folder on the desktop called Ego! Clouds. This is our Cloud storage service and 200MB of it can be used for free just by creating an account on our website.

Just to give an example, it is possible for a user to employ the Ego! Smartmouse internal memory for personal data and the Ego! Clouds' memory to dynamically share data with a working team.

We also developed an Android application, Ego! Keywi, for smartphones and tablets. It turns the user’s device into a touchpad surface and allows him to automatically connect to Ego! Clouds and to exchange data with our cloud space using the special folder mentioned above.

We are continuously working to improve our products and the great potential of Ego! Smartmouse is allowing us to create new concept applications based on the portable device, and not on the computer, you are working with. It will be possible soon to easily manage digital profiles and authenticate to internet services and social networks.

What makes it special?

Ego! Smartmouse is the first personal interaction device that can be used not only as a pointing device but as a key to authenticate, to bring and access the user's personal digital identity. We had the idea to integrate all these features in a simple and widely spread portable device.

Laura Sapiens wants to improve and speed up the interaction between humans and computers but the simplicity always plays a key role in all our solutions. This is the purpose of Laura Sapiens and I think that this product places us on the right track for its realization.

What’s your background, and what inspired you to come up with the idea?

I was still a student in electronics engineering when Matteo Modè, a student in industrial engineering, decided to create a team able to develop his initial idea of intelligent interaction device.

In an increasingly computerized environment, the interaction with computers is becoming even more frequent with several consequences: during a typical day, people use more than one computer but settings and data are not automatically shared between them; users' accounts, internet and social network profiles are growing with the consequence that the credentials are becoming too many to be easily memorized. Our device is the basis for solving all these problems.

Stefano Garusi (computer science engineer), Stefano Ghidoni (telecommunications engineer) and Stefano Salati (electronics engineer) completed the team. We met many times to develop the original idea and in 2011 we decided to found Laura Sapiens, to finalize our product and to bring it to market.

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Why Kickstarter?

Even if crowdfunding was not so diffused in Italy, we decided to consider it as a great opportunity to get international visibility and to introduce our device to the world and thus it was.

Is Crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

I think it is. I've seen on Kickstarter many very effective ideas successfully funded. Crowdfunding can be considered a kind of test for your project and also a small lever to make it available to users. It is very important for sure to organize it at your best. It can really help you to find distributors, or people interested in your idea and available to support you in promoting or selling your product.

What have you done since you successfully funded your project?

We have just continued to follow our roadmap to improve our product and make it available on the market. Obviously with more strength and confidence on it thanks to the successful campaign just concluded.

We have now finalized the production process and we are delivering the first pieces to our backers. At the same time, our team is working to add new features such as the possibility to automatically login to internet services, profiles or social networks, and to make it available for other operating systems such as MAC OS and Linux.

What have been the biggest challenges in developing the Ego! Smartmouse?

It comes naturally for me to answer this question from the technical point of view and I would say the wide variety of aspects that you have to consider for planning the engineering of a product as complex as Ego! Smartmouse: electronic, mechanics and software.

However, economic aspects are even more important since it is very expensive to produce hardware parts: every single step must be planned and evaluated carefully if you want to realize a successful product and hit the target.

Given it’s variety of possible uses, how do you ensure it stays secure?

Every communication of sensitive data is protected by encryption algorithms (device – computer and computer – server communications). Even if you can see data inside the special folders (both local memory and cloud memory folders) they don't really reside on your computer until you download them. When you disconnect from that computer no information remains on it.

If your smartphone or Smartmouse gets lost or stolen, you can block the access to your cloud folder for each paired device.

There’s been very little innovation in desktop peripherals in recent years, why do you think this is?

I think that the very little innovation is due to the fact that people still prefer simplicity and comfort. That is why the mouse is, and in my opinion will remain for a long time, one of the most spread and used ways to interact with computers.

This reasoning has been our starting point to define Ego! Smartmouse features. Every operation can be made in a simpler way: easy connection by taking a picture of the QR code displayed on the screen, air or traditional mouse pointing, drag & drop file storage.

Possible business use?

We have dedicated a web page to all the possible business uses on our site.

Aims for the future?

Our main aim is for sure to spread our Ego! Platform concept: to do this we are working to create partnerships and offer new services that exploit Ego! Smartmouse or Ego! Keywi as authentication keys; we are increasing our software portability and creating API to allow external applications or services to use our platform as a way to easily and quickly authenticate.