“The body senses more than the brain realises,” Mervi Heinaro, CEO of Flexound Systems Oy says. “People are always on the look out for new experiences, we are sentient beings after all, and yet it seems that we are not using our ability to sense to its fullest potential yet.”
It is precisely this untapped potential that Flexound are focusing on. The company has developed a smart pillow that combines high-quality sound and sound wave vibrations, allowing you not just to hear but also to feel the sound.
“Music is like a miracle drug. When we hear music, we begin to produce dopamine, the feel good hormone, while the vibrations promote the release of oxytocin, also known as the cuddle chemical, which reduces stress hormone levels in the body. Together, these hormones are really good for you,” Heinaro explains.
In fact, it is precisely the team’s desire to do good that is the driving force behind Flexound as a company. Jukka Linjama, one of the founder members, first began to develop a new technology that would combine music and vibrations to help his wife, an occupational therapist. No one had ever attempted anything similar before and Linjama first secured a patent for his idea in 2014. He was left with a sense that the technology could have a broader application but the idea remained on the back burner, until he met Tommi Immonen and Mervi Heinaro.
“I immediately recognised the potential of Jukka’s idea and I knew that the engineers would need someone that could help them commercialise what they had,” Heinaro explains.
That was the beginning of the Taikofon, a huggable, tactile pillow intended for therapeutic use.
“Children are a key target audience for us. Many children who cannot speak or move can benefit hugely from the combined effect of music and vibration. It can be particularly helpful for children with autism or aggressive tendencies. The Taikofon pillow can also help them to get to sleep.”
Sound – an added dimension
As the technology combining music and vibration had proved such a success in the therapeutic setting, the team set about spreading the joy a little bit further. So far, the double effect of music and vibration is relatively little used in the entertainment industry. This insight led to the creation of the HUMU smart cushion.
“Taikafon and HUMU have a different design, a different brand and a number of technical differences, too. It was important for us to keep the therapeutic product separate from the entertainment market,” Heinaro says.
The consumer market offers virtually limitless opportunities for utilising the music and vibration technology. There are no restrictions on the type of sound content used and technology is a perfect fit with films, audio books, radio or Spotify and many other uses. Virtual reality also represents another great opportunity.
“The great thing about HUMU is that it will not claim any more of the user’s time. It merely adds a new dimension to something that they are already doing.”
Dare to believe in your own ideas
Flexound’s success in the Kasvu Open competition, which seeks to identify Finland’s strongest growth company, gave the team to confidence to believe in themselves.
“We were looking for a little boost to really believe in ourselves. The year-long competition process was an excellent opportunity to put our ideas to the test. What we realised is that these are not just our own ideas, other people believe in them too. We learned to deliver a first rate pitch and attracted new customers, a collaborator and a business angel. The financial advice provided by Nordea bank was also incredibly valuable.”
With HUMU, Flexound has set its sights on the Chinese market and the team have already convinced one large local retailer to stock their product. The search for new international partners remains very much ongoing.
“You can’t grow if you’re not willing to enter the global market,” Heinaro points out.
HUMU will be in Finnish shops in the new year, after launches both on IndieGoGo and in China. It is highly likely that we will be seeing a number of new products that bring together sound and sensory experiences in the future – there may even be some copycat products around – but Flexound are determined to be the first on the market – flying the Finnish flag all the way.
Flexound team is well seasoned: (left) Mervi Heinaro, Jukka Linjama, Mirja Linjama
and Tommi Immonen.
Espoo is a garden of innovation and adventurous experiences – Espoo Innovation Garden. We want to prepare a seedbed for creating new jobs and a good strong living environment in the spirit of co-creation with companies, communities and residents. The city itself is one of the gardeners by bringing together various partners and creating possibilities for growth and innovations.