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Crowdfunding failure allows for realization of too-complex ideas

campus_MiRing

A 3D rendering of the MiRing prototype two OSU students designed.
Credit: Courtesy of Max Zitney

The idea was a wearable Bluetooth finger ring with an LED display that would help wearers stay connected with their smartphones, but the concept never left the drawing board. The ring would have vibrated when receiving phone notifications, accompanied by a pulsing light. Twin brothers Max and Zach Zitney, third-year Ohio State students in strategic communication, called the idea the “MiRing,” and although the prototype will not see shelves anytime soon, the process of trial-and-error has seemingly taught the Zitneys the value of persistance.

The idea for came about after the brothers noticed they were missing phone calls and text messages while they were out, said Max Zitney. The brothers shared the concept during OSU’s Business Builders Club’s IdeaPitch Competition in November.

“We came in third after a couple (of) companies. Two companies that already had traction, and we just had an idea,” Max Zitney said.

The brothers won $500 and 10 hours of consulting with the Technology Commercialization Office at OSU. The TCO helps take ideas and inventions and commercialize them. Working with TCO employees, Max and Zach Zitney developed their plan into a visual concept.

“We hoped to add value to make it marketable,” said Erika Braun, an industrial designer with the TCO and a graduate student in design research and development. Braun said she helped create the visual aspect of the MiRing by developing 3D models and visual rendering.

TCO also helped the two acquire a provisional patent for the MiRing.

After the brothers had their concept drawn out and patented, they pursued the development of a prototype.

That’s where production halted.

Estimates for a functioning prototype were $100,000. The money was for more than just a prototype, though, Max Zitney said.

“It was going to get FCC regulations and certification from Bluetooth,” he said, but the capital wasn’t there.

The problem with the high price tag was due to all the miniaturized components that the ring would have featured. On top of a tiny vibration motor and LED display, the ring would have provided different colored pulsing lights to be set for different notification types, Zach Zitney said. The additions complicated the product’s development.

“We wanted it to charge inductively, so you wouldn’t have to plug it in. You would just set it on a stand and it would just charge,” Zach said, “But that little thing blows it up to another universe — that little modification.”

After meeting with several local companies for prototype development, the two decided not to further pursue the advancement of the MiRing.

“We were trying to build a pyramid from the top down,” Max Zitney said.

To take a smartphone and incorporate miniaturized technologies into an inductively-charged ring was too much, he said, and his brother agreed.

“We knew it was extreme,” Zach Zitney said.

Max and Zach have since begun believing the trial was a learning experience.

“I don’t think we failed at all because we learned so much throughout the whole journey,” Zach Zitney said. And while their exact idea of the MiRing may not see the light of day, they’re betting another tech company will produce something similar, Max Zitney said.

The MiRing’s setbacks haven’t stunted Max and Zach from new ideas, either, Max Zitney said.

“It’s kind of good that we started off with something so hard, just to learn from it,” he said. The Zitneys will be working on newer — simpler — ideas, he said.

Braun said she believes this hiccup won’t stop Max and Zach Zitney’s future as entrepreneurs.

“They really have a passion for finding problems and wanting to find solutions for them,” she said.

Zach Zitney said the biggest takeaway was learning to stick with what they want to do.

“If you have an idea and you think it’s good … just do it,” Zach said. “It’s very satisfying doing something you actually love doing.”

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