John Samuel (00:10):
Hey, this is All Access with John Samuel. I’m your host, John Samuel. This is a show where we share stories of leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates, and how they’re improving the lives for people of all abilities. Today we have Zuby Onwuta, who is the CEO and founder of Think and Zoom and is an award-winning innovator and also a U S vet. So thank you so much to me for being here and participating on the show.
Zuby Onwuta (00:42):
Thank you, John, for having me, my pleasure.
John Samuel (00:45):
Zuby, you know, I was taking a look and learning more about thinking zoom and what I was amazed by watching the YouTube videos was the idea of brain control. Could you share a little bit of information about what brain control is
Zuby Onwuta (01:00):
Brain control is simply the ability of humans to use the naturally occurring brainwaves to control electronic devices. One way to look at it is if you go home and look for your TV, remote control, you pick it up, you press a button on it, and something happens on the TV. Well there’s electrical circuitry inside of the remote control. Now that to bring it back to humans. Inside of our brains at the root of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior at these millions massive amounts of neurons that enable all of that to work, and they communicate with each other through electrical impulses and through the science and technology of EEG or electroencephalography, we are able to tap these electrical impulses as waves called brainwaves. We can either tap it invasively by inserting electrodes into the brain. There’s a portion of the brain called the post posterior cortex. That’s where all thoughts originate. Let’s say you want to pick up a cup of coffee, just like I’m doing right now. It’s started off from the post posterior cortex and so forth, insert surgical electrode into the PPC. We can send out signals to control things in the real world, but of course that’s invasive surgery. Now EEG allows us to also tap those brainwaves noninvasively by simply placing electrodes on the forehead or the scalp area. And so that’s what a brain control is all about. Just allows people to be able to control electronic devices by simply thinking.
John Samuel (03:13):
That’s amazing. I mean, how did you, how did you figure this out and where did you learn about brain waves and, and and how our brain actually works?
Zuby Onwuta (03:25):
Well, I didn’t really figure it all out. I was looking for a solution for myself. I am visually impaired, I’m legally blind. I use magnifiers and it’s really very frustrating for me to use two hands, just to be able to magnify. And I also use screen readers and anybody that knows what a screener is. There are so many shortcut keys. And for those who don’t know what a screen reader is, is courier is simply a software that enables somebody who does not see well to turn all text characters into audio so they can listen to it instead. But for you to be able to control all of that stuff, you need two hands and two fingers to be able to punch all the cues, just to send commands like new page, next word, next paragraph. So it was very frustrating. And so for many years, I kept looking for a way to make this experience just simpler, which should be able to provide a greater user experience.
Zuby Onwuta (04:48):
And when it came to the EEG and the entire study of neuroscience, I simply stumbled upon it. I didn’t learn your science in school. And until today I’ve never read a neuroscience book and I’ve tried not to go into neuroscience because there’s a difference between leveraging versus being a subject matter expert in something I leveraged the ability of what neuroscience offers via EEG in that we can tap those electrical impulses at brain waves to control things. And so I take that and apply it to my engineering background to be able to come up with solutions.
John Samuel (05:37):
Yeah, well, that’s interesting because, you know, I think a lot of people, and I know in my own experience when I sort of losing my sight and I was using a screen reader first, you know, the frustration, I, I wasn’t really, I was looking for things to make it easier, but I didn’t take it to this next step like you, but one thing that’s really interesting is that you, you said you, you started to lean back on your engineering background and kind of thinking about solution. Can you give me a little bit background on how did you get started you know, in college and in what you did with engineering?
Zuby Onwuta (06:14):
Yeah, this all started you know, I wanted to be a medical doctor. I came to America with three things, a duffel bag, $200. And my dream in my front pocket and quickly realized I needed three or very significant zeros to the back of my 200. And you know that to, you know, move this dream forward. I joined the U S Army to serve the country, giving me the great opportunity of coming to learn here. I was a premier student, I was in the U S Army. And within two years, I went from seeing the eye chart from 20 feet away to seeing the eye chart from one foot away. It was a very traumatic experience. The decline was so Swift, so sharp, no preparation. The military discharge me. And so with my dream of becoming a medical doctor and I battled to battled with depression for a while and pick myself up and I went into computer engineering.
Zuby Onwuta (07:33):
I didn’t understand what it was, but it was just a very, very tough challenge. One part of it was there’s hardware. So you have to mess with the electrical circuits. Well, I couldn’t see. That’s a challenge and then there’s software. So you have to write code hundreds of thousands of lines of code sums up. The projects we did in college was a video games instant messaging software. The beginning of smart home or senior design project will unlock your front door just by you calling your landline and entering a passcode. So that was a lot of, you know, intense work in front of the theater for somebody who didn’t see very well, but I endured, I even flunked out halfway through, you know, but I, I kept injuring and, and graduated and then started working at IBM as a was hired through a program for people with disabilities. Again, it was very, very tough. I started with managing a lab with 300 servers. What I mean by a lab, I mean, expensive machines, isn’t it’s cables, consoles. And I couldn’t see. And then later on I became the global lead for all of the unique server file systems, global leaders in some of my clients with the White House and Bloomberg and Boeing.
John Samuel (09:15):
Yeah. I failed out of engineering school and, and I went into accounting afterwards. I, I didn’t have the I just didn’t think it was possible for me. I remember feeling out of circuits. I think it was possible for me as a blind individual to complete an engineering degree. So I commend you on that. And then I love the fact that you were, you know, overseeing all of these servers and systems for the white house and going, and, and folks there probably had no idea that there was a blind guy in the back end, keeping this all running, which I love even more. But, you know, I think the coolest thing is that you just kept on persevering and, and really just keep moving. And I’d love to know. What do you think it was that made you kind of have that in the back of your mind? Like, just to be able to push through
Zuby Onwuta (10:05):
Starting out with my grandmother. I lived with her till I finished primary school, you know, houses, discipline. She was born in 1923. So when I’m in discipline, I’m in the capital D and then for secondary school I live with my, my dad and his was more of hard work. You know, his statement was do your best before your name is chiseled on a cold gray stone. So that means your best before your name, you know, you’re passing away. And so that’s the person that I live with throughout high school. And then right after high school, and now I came to America and I lived for short while with, you know, an uncle who today is an anesthesiologist and also a fellowship in pain medicine. And his guy is such an incredible human being. So his was more of, you know, the grind right, hanging in there, stick with it hanging. And so these were, you know, the, the experiences the lived experiences, the mentors that I relied on.
John Samuel (11:36):
It’s awesome that you have these mentors in your life who, who had pushed you and I, and it’s similar to my life. You know, I owe a lot to my family and and my family and friends who really just have been mentors and that kind of built that foundation for me. And I think it’s like yourself. I think that’s a, that’s where our foundation was built on. And, and no matter that we lost our sites having that foundation is invaluable with thinking zoom, what are the, some of the things you’re working on right now with it? How are you applying it? And just, what are you excited about it right now?
Zuby Onwuta (12:12):
Zoom is creating a world where a visual impairment or disability no longer steals dreams, or kills careers. That’s the very heavy statements. And we aim to empower the visually impaired, to be able to look, think, and zooming to their better brighter future. And so when you think about a world, a world is made up of very many different things, and that’s how we look at the problem. We don’t look at it as here’s one assistive tech solution. Goodbye. No, we try to look out the story of the human that is visually impaired, and we try to understand all aspects of their lives. And then we try to bring about the solution that will achieve this three themes that we’ll always have our user experience improved functionality and ultimately boost their productivity. So as to be able to combat the global 90% of literacy rate, and almost a 70% average unemployment rate per country affecting the blind while we have the brain control solution queer by simply using a sensor on your forehead, you can think and magnify it.
Zuby Onwuta (13:42):
That’s where the name came from think and zoom. So you can think and zoom in to, to see better. And a companion of that is also think and read. We also have that technology where if you’re looking at printed characters, you can sync and invoke the conversion of that text to audio. So you can start here it, along with that, we also have seen games here by simply thinking, you can play a game. Our Kenti game won an award five years ago at Apple worldwide developer conference, which is like the Oscars for developers. And I was really fortunate to have gone through that experience. And the think and zoom, has received its patent. So it’s a patented piece of technology. And then along with that, there are other concepts that we have one concept that came out of this COVID experience call voice out.
Zuby Onwuta (14:51):
And that was just from listening to the frustrations and the fears and the anxieties of people that are visually impaired, who already had trouble with their daily lives and trouble with the internet, which wasn’t the most accessible environment to begin with. And now everybody’s stuck at home. You can’t call your neighbor from down the street to come and help you out. And everybody is forced into the internet, but it wasn’t very friendly before could be right. So by listening to hundreds of people, we conducted a research and published it at the, in the thinkings of guide COVID-19 guide. We conceived of this concept where somebody that has a problem kind of voice it out. So it’s a crowdsourcing platform for solutions. I feel living in Harris County, Texas, you can simply type out the problem you have, and a wide variety of people will see that problem and contribute, you know, solutions to help you get around, like walk around.
Zuby Onwuta (16:12):
And then another solution that we conceived of is called the remote angel. So again, this was coming out of queer, some of these blind, they have a laptop and what I pop up, what I is some snack, right. And I know John, you know, this situation extremely, very well, right? It’s not working right. Well, how do you get help? How do you show the individual in real time? What you’re talking about? So we came up with this concept of a remote angel where it’s a headset, like numeral a speaker, a headphones, right? Yeah. But we’ve been able to add an ultra mini cam and a microphone. So you can just use voice to call a call. Carrie and Carrie comes online from wherever she is, and she sees exactly what you, when you’re pointing and just gesture in it and she can see, okay, move it to like, you know, and all we’re seeking is if we’re able to find those corporations that are willing to, you know, assist smaller companies, to be able to, for the develop and scale out the solutions will positively impact millions of blind individuals so that they can both learn.
John Samuel (17:51):
I love it, man. I love it. I love it. Learn it, earn, man. I love that. And where can people learn more about zoom in think or think in zoom in zoom and also remote angel, where can people learn more about these innovations and can come up with,
Zuby Onwuta (18:08):
For sure. We have multiple channels. Our website is thinkandzoom.com and you can find information on our website, our YouTube channel at think and zoom. Our other social media channels, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, all at thinkandzoom.
John Samuel (18:31):
Love it, man. Thank you so much. And I love what you’re doing to help people learn and earn man. And thanks so much for, for taking part on this and let’s see what we can do together, man.
Zuby Onwuta (18:42):
Thanks so much, John. I appreciate you having a platform and hopefully we can all collaborate to be able to enable the visually impaired, to look, think, and zoom into their very bright future. Thanks for having me.
John Samuel (18:57):
Awesome. Thanks. [inaudible].