MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — As the afternoon of startup pitches for 500 Startups’ demo day went on, one of them stood out because it was familiar. DrumPants had previously appeared on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, and its kooky sensors that turn clothing into musical instruments got a lot of buzz shortly after.
But DrumPants cofounder and chief executive Lei Yu stood on that stage representing Tappur, the company’s new name, which is supposed to encompass its new — and much bigger — vision. Tappur wants to use its sensors to help you tap to activate any connected device you want, saving the time it takes to pull out your smartphone, open an app, and finally take the action you want to accomplish, like unlocking your Lockitron-equipped door.
Currently, Tappur (and its existing DrumPants sensors) works by connecting with Icontrol’s OpenHome platform for connected devices, which enables it to control more than 200 devices, including the Lockitron smart door lock and the Philips Hue connected lightbulb. The company is also finalizing deals with a couple more partners, and it will continue to add more, such as the Apple Watch, as they roll out.
Virtual reality is also an area where Tappur’s sensors work well. At its booth, the startup had set up an Oculus Rift demo with a game; players attached the DrumPants sensors to their shoes and used them to march in place to mimic walking around the game virtually. It already has a couple of virtual reality developers working on building games with its sensors.
Tappur’s other demo was a simple lamp from Ikea that was hooked to Icontrol’s platform. Cofounder and chief technology officer Tyler Freeman turned it on and off by tapping on his jacket — a DrumPants sensor was tucked inside his inner breast pocket. Tappur’s app can also be programmed to be context-aware — tapping once might turn on the light in the living room when you’re in it, but the same tap could trigger a different device when you’re in a different room, he added.
Although the startup shipped its first batch of DrumPants sensors three weeks ago, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Freeman told me that Tappur — the bigger vision — had always been the team’s true idea. DrumPants was only the beginning, the first application it ran with given how difficult music was to create with mobile devices like tablets, Freeman explained.
The idea of creating sensors that could integrate into anything is already getting attention from big players. Earlier this month, at CES, Intel unveiled Curie, a button-sized module that can turn any object into a connected wearable.
Prior to 500 Startups’ program, Tappur participated in Wearable World’s incubator for wearables and connected device startups. The founders then headed for 500 Startups to better hone in on the company’s growth and distribution strategies, a key focus in this program, as it works on its expanded vision.
The startup is working on a new set of sensors under the Tappur brand, though they won’t be wildly different from the ones carrying the DrumPants name.
Freeman and Yu declined to provide a specific timeline for pre-orders and shipping, but they did disclose that the company is now raising money to prepare to do those things.