By Burl Gilyard (B.A. ’92)
With a doctorate in linguistics, Muhammad Abdurrahman (M.A. ’07, Ph.D. ’14) might seem like an unlikely leader for a technology company. But after his father suffered a stroke and lost full function of one arm, Abdurrahman wrestled with finding a technology that could help him do things around the house by himself. His search led him to design the Reemo wristband, a wearable device that enables users to control some everyday household appliances and gadgets using simple hand gestures. Abdurrahman’s start-up tech company, Playtabase, is developing it.
Aspects of the Reemo platform are still in development, but the wristband will also be capable of monitoring seniors and providing data that may help them remain independent longer. For example, loved ones can be notified about open doors, appliances left on too long, falls, or the level of movement in the person’s home. “I didn’t just want my dad to have control over his home,” Abdurrahman explains. “I wanted to know how he’s doing.”
Though Playtabase has yet to start selling the Reemo wristband, it has received attention from Wired, CNNMoney and Forbes magazine. The company is also one of 10 businesses selected to be part of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, a program focused on home automation technologies that provides mentoring, technical guidance, and connections to other startups.
Now that Playtabase is moving closer to launch, Abdurrahman will be handing the job of CEO over to cofounder Alexander Baker (B.S.B. ’13) so he can take on the role of promoting the company and the technology. Ryan Manteufel (B.S.B. ’14), the other cofounder, will continue as CFO while Ahmed Daoud (B.E.E., B.C.E. ’11) will remain the company’s chief technical officer. Playtabase employs 17 people, most of whom are U alumni, says Abdurrahman. He, Baker, Manteufel, and Daoud all met at the University.
Abdurrahman’s goal is to begin selling Reemo in spring 2015. “This is not tech for tech’s sake,” he says. “I wanted to make the world a more accessible place.”