A pair of smart glasses using duct tape and zip wires that allowed an artist with Lou Gehrig’s disease to draw again. An artificial arm made via 3D printing that brought mobility back to bombing victims in Sudan. A vibrating wristbrand that may be able to stop those with Parkinson’s from trembling. If you have the time, Mick Ebeling and the Not Impossible Labs team have some pretty incredible stories to tell.
Speaking at the Analytics AX conference produced by SAS on Monday, Ebeling talked about how he created Not Impossible Labs — a combination of technology incubator and content studio — that is partnering directly with brands to help them fulfill a greater purpose.
Ebeling’s background is not in technology but in offering some of the most common B2B offerings in the entertainment space, such as the title designs for James Bond films and other movies. Those creative skills, however, have since been applied to what he called “absurd” problems and coming up with solutions that can be accessible to a wider audience.
The EyeWriter, for example, was a response to the fact that those who lost the power of speech weren’t always able to afford the kind of TTS simulator used by the likes of the late Stephen Hawking. With little more than three 3D printers, laptops and spools of plastic, meanwhile, the Not Impossible Labs team was able to develop simple prosthetics that were able to help a 12-year-old named Daniel Omar and others hit with shrapnel in the Nuba mountains. The limbs cost only a few hundred dollars compared to more sophisticated traditional models that could cost $5,000 or more.
Last week, meanwhile, Not Impossible Labs released Vibro Health, wristbands that use embedded mini-motors that vibrate across a spectrum of rhythm, amplitude and frequency. The devices, which were originally developed as part of a project to help the deaf experience music, could be transformational to those with Parkinsons and similar conditions, Eberling said.
“The deeper we dig into it, you cannot name anything possible today that wasn’t impossible first,” he said. “The way we think is inverse logic: everything impossible today — if you base it on stats and data — is on the trajectory of becoming possible.”
Feeding the homeless is another example. Eberling said Not Impossible Labs has teamed with a charity called Safe Place For Youth to create a basic CRM tool for the non-profit sector that will allow homeless people to send and receive text messages to order meals using simple commands like a “1” for “yes” and a “2” for “No.”
Eberling admitted that Not Impossible Labs has ‘no credentials, no training, no tangible reason to succeed’ in any of its projects, but tries to approach them with “beautiful, limitless naivete.” Once the organization focuses on a problem, however, it commits to it entirely and adopts a “help one, help many” philosophy in which tackling a problem for a specific individual can lead to the same solution helping others. He encouraged business leaders to figure out who is their “one,” as a starting point.
SAS is trying to aim its analytics software at similarly daunting issues, said Oliver Schabenberger, the firm’s COO and CTO. He told the Analytics X crowd that experts competing in a hackathon at the event, for instance, are trying to figure out ways to use data and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and prevent the kinds of wildfires that have been sweeping across California recently.
“All of this (technology) means nothing if you cannot bring it to life,” he said.
That sense of working for the greater good has become basis for Not Impossible Labs’ business model, Eberling said. His skills in content creation and production, for example, have been used to create rich videos that tell stories of Not Impossible Labs successes, which are then licensed by brands. The firm is now partnering directly with companies on certain projects from the outset.
“The stories we tell are valuable for their brands and their image,” he said. “It provides a tool to say, ‘Look at what we stand for beyond . . . selling a product. It gives a tangible reason for people to believe that they stand for something more.”