Wizard idea sells well after wooing investors and distributor
Did you know that Dragons’ Den—the BBC show where entrepreneurs pitch for investment from top UK business brains—started in Japan entitled “Mane no Tora” (Money Tigers)?
Now, in another example of how UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is helping promote British innovation abroad, one of the most successful Dragons’ Den pitches is captivating the show’s country of origin.
The Kymera Wand is the world’s first motion-sensitive, button-less universal remote control using gesture recognition. It can learn 13 infrared remote-control codes and replay them at your command with the same number of easy-to-learn gestures, giving you power over any remote-controlled device with just a flick or a swish. Codes can be overwritten if you change devices.
Pitched on Dragons’ Den last August, it sparked a furious bidding war between all five dragons and secured £200,000 for a 20% stake.Wand Company Co-founder Chris Barnardo came to the British Embassy Tokyo in early June to launch the product in Japan. Flicking, rotating, pushing forward and pulling it back just like a wizard, he turned on and off various devices and controlled their volume, including a television, a DVD and an iPod.
Barnardo told startled guests: “At the heart of the wand is a tiny silicon device called an accelerometer, which can measure force in any direction. It is so sensitive that it can measure the force of gravity while the wand is at rest. The ‘brain’ of the wand is programmed to recognise certain patterns of force as deliberate movements or gestures and use them as cues to send specific pulses of invisible infra-red light that is used to remotely control most domestic audiovisual equipment”.
The Wand Company—mission statement: “To develop exciting products that really put the magic back into people’s lives”—has found success with the product in several global markets.
In Japan, the UKTI team undertook an Overseas Market Introduction Service on behalf of the firm to represent the product at the embassy’s stand during the Tokyo International Gift Show in February. Just three weeks later, Links International was appointed Japan distributor. Thanks to a television appearance, the first order of 1,000 sold out on launch day and half of the next consignment of 5,000 went in just two days.
You can now buy it nationwide at major domestic-appliance stores and Don Quixote for ¥6,980. It also sells for £49,95 plus £10 for shipping abroad on the Wand Company website.
In late June, Links International invited me to test the Kymera Wand at its Tokyo office. After inserting the two batteries supplied, I pointed the wand up and tapped it twice in the middle, when it vibrated four times to indicate it was in “learning mode”, ready for me to “teach” it commands. Wow it’s working, I thought!
To teach each command, I slowly turned the wand horizontally and did the gesture I wanted to register—a forward swish for the television “on” switch, for example. Each gesture has a set number of vibrations—in this case it was nine vibrations to switch the television on. Then it vibrates rapidly to indicate it’s time to set the code, so I quickly pointed the remote control to the tip of the wand and pressed the television remote control “on” button. The wand then vibrated once to confirm the code was set. Hey, presto!
To exit learning mode, I slowly pointed the wand down, tapped on its middle again and it vibrated fast four times to indicate it was off.
The wand was now ready to turn on the television by forward swishing it instead of using the remote control. I then went home and tried it on my own television remote control, air conditioner and fan. They all worked brilliantly and now I don’t have to keep stretching and searching for different remote controls—just one magic one does the trick! And it fits in the hand better than a remote control.
One thing to remember: only clear, firm gestures work, so practice makes perfect!