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Meet the ‘small guys’ investing in tech for good

Their innovations are already improving the lives of people around the world.

The next big tech idea might come from a multinational corporation or an established thinker with the kinds of resources to turn their ideas into reality. But it’s just as likely that it will come from a “small guy,” someone less established and less well-resourced whose ideas are nevertheless essential to building a better future.

Here are three digital health startups from “small guy” innovators that are making life-changing technologies available to the people who need them. Odds are good that they could help you now or in the future—and if they don’t, another invention from a “small guy” probably will.


Cervical discomfort has many causes, from too much heavy lifting to too much sitting hunched in front of a computer. But regardless of the cause, it’s the kind of condition that can make everyday life unpleasant or worse.

Shiwen Xu, a Chinese product manager and designer, knows this all too well. He has cervical spondylosis, a degenerative spinal disease. Inspired by his experience, he created NEOK, an app that turns daily cervical spine relaxation exercises into games they can play by themselves or with friends. It relies on existing habits using smartphones, smartwatches, and earbuds with onboard sensors to monitor head and neck movements in real-time without any specialized equipment.

NEOK is a cost-effective solution for those who suffer from this disease that can be played anytime or anywhere. And with daily reminders and progress tracking, it won’t just be the fun of playing that keeps patients on track to reducing their pain.


Using a smartphone is becoming more and more necessary to live life in the modern world, but seniors who came of age in the landline era often struggle to master them. They might not know how to call their grandchildren, book a reservation at a restaurant, or answer emails from friends across the country.

Adult children can help their parents master these skills, of course, but that’s a difficult proposition if they don’t live nearby. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot more satisfaction and convenience in learning a new skill independently, without having to rely on their kids who might be busy raising kids of their own.

That’s where Mailing comes in. Mailing is an app that simulates real smartphone operating systems in a supported environment, with voice prompts providing instructions in real time. It allows seniors to learn how to use their smartphones and some of the most frequently used apps insulated from digital dangers ranging from accidental emails to phishing scams.

The product of a Chinese startup, Mailing has already helped more than 100,000 people improve their smartphone skills, making it easier for them to stay connected to friends and family and experience all of the benefits a smartphone has to offer.


The Infinity Gauntlet brought a lot of pain, but a German startup—Cynteract—has made a smart glove that does good in the world instead.

Cynteract’s glove is meant to help people with hand injuries, of whom there are 350,000 in its native Germany alone. Its “smart glove”—a glove loaded with force and motion sensors. When worn by someone with a hand injury, it allows them to play a variety of games that double as rehabilitation exercises and, thanks to the onboard force and motion sensors, provide updates to therapists that allows them to monitor patient progress between sessions. The glove makes rehabilitation more entertaining for the patient to release their pain and more efficient for the therapist and clinic, opening up a world of possibilities for the future. Combined with virtual reality, users can now use their own hands to interact instead of buttons on a controller. A collaboration with a sign language institute is already in the works, and that’s just one of many possibilities for the technology.

Cynteract and its intelligent product have been successfully awarded with a variety of prizes, including DIVR Bisuness Award, InnoAlliance, and Spin-off Award.

Given their relatively obscure origins, all three of these tremendously beneficial inventions, products of many hours of hard work, might not be known to users across the globe without OPPO’s support. The consumer technology company backs an Innovation Accelerator through its OPPO Research Institute that empowers technology professionals and entrepreneurs to bring innovative solutions to life and create a better future together.

NEOK, Mailing, and Cynteract are just three of the innovations that the accelerator has made possible. More will be revealed at the Final Demo Day for this year’s accelerator, to be held on August 29 in Shenzen, China. Cynteract has been selected to present, and its “smart glove” will be presented on a large stage where even more people will understand what it can do.

For more information, visit the official website of the OPPO Research Institute Innovation Accelerator.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between BDG Studios and our sponsor, without involvement from Input's editorial staff. Learn more here.