10 Year Anniversary / UbiDuo: A Father’s Inspiration

A Letter from the CEO, Jason Curry, on the sComm 10th Anniversary

This is a special time for sComm.  This is sComm’s 10th anniversary.

Last month, sComm passed a very exciting and important milestone, the 10 year mark since the inception of sComm.  The idea of the UbiDuo was sketched by my dad on the white board in our family’s kitchen after we came home frustrated from trying to communicate with each other at Perkins in Sedalia, MO in March of 2002.

Here is how my dad relays what happened:  The idea of the UbiDuo came to me out of necessity.  It came to me over a period of time.  I had taken sign language classes but still could not communicate at the high level that I wanted to with Jason.  I had been thinking through all of Jason’s growing up years, during his college years, and with him beginning his work career how I needed something to be able to communicate with him at the highest levels.  We sat at Perkins for a couple of hours going over the details of a real estate contract and after all those years of wanting to find a solution to my communication problems, the picture of the communication device just came all at once into my mind.

I said to Jason at that moment:  “Son, let’s go home.  I want to show you something on the white marking board in the kitchen.”  We always kept a white marking board in our kitchen to write words on for Jason or anyone else in the family.

We walked in the kitchen and I drew the picture that came into my mind.  I said:  “Jason, if we had something like that, our conversation would have gone a lot faster and been a whole lot easier.”

Jason stepped back and looked at the rough sketch on the board.  And then he jumped up in the air and said:  “Well, dad, if I had that, it could change my whole life.  I could go anywhere and talk to anyone without needing someone to interpret for me all the time with people who do not know sign language.

Dad said:  “Well, if you really think that, why don’t we get a patent on it and try to build it?”  And as the saying goes:  THE REST IS HISTORY.

Without dad’s idea, there would not be a UbiDuo or thousands of lives changed everywhere.  Thank you to my dad, David G. Curry.

A few months after filing for the patent, we decided to apply for a Phase 1 SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to do a feasibility study on the effects of face-to-face interaction between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people.  We received that grant in 2003 to do the study for a year; then we compiled the results and submitted the report back to NIH.  Based on the positive results and the deep interest in having a communication device which could be used independently, sComm applied for a Phase II SBIR grant.   We waited a year and a half until we were awarded the funding to develop and engineer the original UbiDuo 1.

From August 2005 to December 2006 over 17 months of development and engineering, the UbiDuo 1 became a reality and sComm began shipping on January 27, 2007.  We began the company in a 600 square foot office in Independence, MO with just 4 employees.  Emma my mother and I traveled across the country to hundreds of conferences and met people from all over expressing their need for a face-to-face solution between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing.  Because of the idea that dad came up with,  the UbiDuo 1 has literally changed thousands and thousands of lives all over the country in endless situations in different environments.  Just this week, we received this statement from the Mayor of a small town who has just been using the UbiDuo with her mother for the past two weeks:  “We LOVE the UbiDuo.  It has changed our lives!

At the beginning, we set the goal of empowering deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people to interact with each other freely without barriers with the UbiDuo everywhere.  Some people thought we were out of our minds to dream and imagine that it was possible.  I am just blown away by how far we have come with thousands and thousands of UbiDuo customers in different markets.  It is just truly amazing to think about how far the UbiDuo has come since then, and we can all be proud of the role sComm played in the face-to-face revolution.  We are grateful for each UbiDuo user who shares their story:  The agency worker who are not been promoted for 15 years but after the addition of the UbiDuo to enhance daily communication with her supervisor, she was promoted multiple times; The grandfather who now talks daily with his grandson; The man who lost his hearing and could no longer meet with his model railroaders group, but now has returned with his UbiDuo.  These are the American stories the UbiDuo has helped to create.

Today though, I am thinking much more about sComm’s future than its past.  I believe face-to-face interaction between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing will continue to evolve faster in the next 10 years than it ever has before.  We live in a world where we are thirsty for more human interaction with zero barriers.   We all want technology that will enable us to become free and communicate with each other with zero frustration, zero bluffing, and zero barriers.

The introduction of the UbiDuo 2 showed its strength and a huge increase in the usability rate.  The UbiDuo 2 has taken face-to-face interaction to the next level.  People are much more engaged in the interaction on the UbiDuo 2.  sComm also launched a new division,  UbiJobs, which is an employment service that helps deaf and hard of hearing clients find jobs.  The UbiJobs success rate is over 90% with its clients from both Missouri and Kansas Vocational Rehabilitation.  Our goal has always been about communication anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

Under the blue print of advancing face-to-face interaction, sComm is better positioned than ever to make that happen.  We have better resources to drive and solve the face-to-face problems between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing.

We are engaged with our customers by learning what their needs are and have the deepest commitment to the development of breaking face-to-face barriers. Our goal is to get the UbiDuo in the hands of every deaf and hard of hearing individual who is struggling with interaction with hearing people in America.  While honoring the important role played by interpreters, sComm’s goal is to close the gaps when an interpreter is not a part of the interaction and enable full communication access.  The UbiDuo plays an important role in employment, in law enforcement, in corporations, in medical settings, in educational settings; and in personal use.

In the next few years, sComm will continue to reach even more people and organizations around the world.  I hope you will think about what you can do to make the power of face-to-face technology accessible to everyone, to empower deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people to interact with other, and make the UbiDuo available.

I want to thank each one of you for helping sComm accomplish a lot during our first 10 years and for helping to empower countless people and companies to realize their full face-to-face communication potential.  I am very excited about what we will do in the next 10 years.  Thank you for helping make sComm the company it is today.

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