Exo Labs Links iPads, Microscopes To Modernize Science Education

1/11/13Follow @bromano

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moving this much data to and from iPads and iPhones, and allow you to interact with what you’re seeing in the way that we do,” Baum says.

Stewart, a firmware engineer, notes that the connection is “bandwidth limited,” and not “an off-the-shelf interface.”

“You have to be able to be very judicious about the data you’re passing across the interface,” he says.

Pressed to elaborate on the technology, Stewart says he used just about everything he’s worked on previously in his career, including Embedded C, micro-controller design, and general lower-level driver-type software. “Your readers are welcome to buy one and take it apart,” Stewart quips.

Partnering with Apple-approved manufacturers located “within a day’s drive” of Seattle, Exo plans an initial production run of several hundred devices.

“We have the capacity to manufacture thousands more devices during the rest of the year, and we have chosen manufacturing partners who have the capacity to scale production volumes quickly beyond that,” says Baum, whose expertise is in mechanical engineering and manufacturing.

The Focus Microscope Camera will sell for $599, with a 25 percent discount offered to K-12 education customers.

Exo hopes to tap other markets as well, such as healthcare, environmental sciences, dentistry—pretty much any field in which microscopy is used. The device can also be outfitted with a zoom lens, mounted on a stand and used during a dissection, to examine geological samples, or for quality control in engineering and manufacturing processes. Stewart says he uses it while soldering prototype devices.

Exo sees itself participating in a “hardware renaissance,” as described by Y Combinator’s Paul Graham.

Stewart, left, and Baum

Being a hardware company could help Exo stand out in the eyes of investors from a crowded field of software and app developers, but there are also significant cash-flow challenges because of the long lead time between committing to tooling and materials, and selling the first product.

Exo plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign, which the founders hope will provide a final push as the product hits the market, and a sense of demand to help size initial production runs.

For now, Exo is operating on its small seed financing, but the five-person startup plans to open a Series A round in February, Baum says.

The company’s strong showing in local startup competitions has also yielded cash and in-kind contributions. It won the Northwest Entrepreneur Network First Look Forum, the Seattle Angel Conference investment competition, and was the people’s choice at the MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest Startup Demo. (Full disclosure: I was a judge at the MIT event and cast my vote for Exo.)

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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  • RC

    I’ve used one of these to present slides to kids. They are a really great teaching tool. It lets you get past the microscope to actually talk about what you are seeing.