By Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio — How did a huggable, electronically controlled teddy-bear and a 19-year-old Case Western Reserve student become stars at the prestigious South by Southwest Tech Fest in Austin Texas?
Xyla Foxlin just wanted a hug, naturally.
Foxlin, a CWRU sophomore from Boston, answered five questions from The Plain Dealer detailing how she and Parihug co-founder Harshita Gupta wound up winning the SXSW Tech Fest reader’s choice award:
1. When did you first get interested in technology?
As a child growing up in Boston, I was interested in building things, but I never tied it into math and electronics. And then in middle school, girls are told to hate math and we were more about fitting in. I still carry some of that to this day, for sure. When I was in high school I made up excuses with my friends so I wouldn’t have to tell them that I joined the robotics team. Then by the time I was a sophomore I was proud to be on the team. I was captain of the robotics team in both my junior and senior year of high school.
2. How did you meet your business partner?
We met in September at a hackathon at the University of Michigan. It’s called MHacks, and it’s the biggest hackathon in the U.S. We were in the same group for women in tech. A mutual friend in the same community introduced us. Parihug started as a hackathon project.
3. How does the technology in the bear work?
If you hug one bear, some fabric-based sensors pick up on the hug and transmit it as a wifi message to the bear. It gently vibrates in real-time, so you can feel someone hug you across the world in real time.
4 .Why did you come up with marrying technology with a teddy bear?
To me it’s normal. I see technology as one more means to make life better. With this particular project, (I came up with the idea because) my boyfriend and I are in a long-distance relationship, and I just wanted a way to hug him.
5. What’s next?
We started a company on accident. But based on the feedback — it’s been overwhelmingly positive. Now we are trying to apply to accelerators to further develop the product. We hope to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this year.