Jason Curry is the co-founder and CEO of sComm. sComm stands for Simultaneous Communications. The company's focus is on enabling people to communicate directly with each other, and to strike up a conversation without any face to face barriers. His company developed the UbiDuo, a face-to-face communication device for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. He was interviewed by Assistive Technology News’ writer John Williams.
Williams: What is the biggest personal challenge you have as a deaf person?
Curry: The biggest personal challenge for me is the ability to hold a long lasting face-to-face conversation with a hearing person without a 3rd party. It is very difficult to lip read every word that the person says. It is quite frustrating that I don’t have the power like hearing people to simply hold a conversation with another person. That is the biggest challenge that deaf people face on a daily basis.
Williams: Have you ever heard anything in your life? If you did, what was it?
Curry: I was born deaf. I never heard anything until I was almost 31 years old – it was the day my cochlear implant was turned on. You can go to my personal website at www.jasoncurry.com and learn about my cochlear implant experiences.
Williams: Why did you develop the UbiDuo?
Curry: The UbiDuo was developed out of frustration when my dad and I were trying to converse over breakfast one morning a few years ago. Dad doesn’t sign very well, so the words he uses are very limited and basic. Sometimes it’s hard to have an in-depth or a very detailed conversation – not just with him, but with anyone who doesn’t know sign language. When my dad drew a sketch of the UbiDuo, I knew that such a device would change the landscape of face-to-face communication for people who are deaf everywhere.
Williams: How long did it take you to develop the UbiDuo?
Curry: This has been about a six-year journey since Dad and I had that breakfast together. In 2002, we mostly did research to find out how to get the device from the drawing board into someone’s hands. We incorporated the company in 2003, and then applied for SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health. We received both phase I and phase II SBIR grants to develop the UbiDuo. The engineering development of the UbiDuo began in August 2005 and took 1 ˝ years. The UbiDuo was launched on January 29, 2007.
Williams: Are you married?
Curry: Yes I am married. I have been married to the most wonderful hearing woman named Missy for 14 years. We have been together 18 years. We began dating when we were in college. We dated for 4 years before we got married.
Williams: Do you have any children?
Curry: No we don’t have any children. We have a cat!
Williams: Who buys the UbiDuo?
Curry: Everyone buys the UbiDuo – in every almost every market, in almost every industry. Schools, universities, independent living centers, employment centers, the federal government, state governments, local governments, vocational rehabilitation, assistive technology centers, corporations, and other establishments that have deaf or hard of hearing employees or serve deaf or hard of hearing people have bought the UbiDuo.
Williams: How many UbiDuos have you sold?
Curry: Since January 29, 2007, we have sold almost one thousand UbiDuos.
Williams: What are you plans to improve the UbiDuo?
Curry: There are many planned engineering developments to improve the UbiDuo for different purposes. At this time, we prefer not to reveal those improvements due to possible competition.
Williams: What are some fun things that you enjoy doing?
Curry: I love working on my ‘67 Mustang. It is my very first car; I bought it when I was 15 years old. For 2 years, I saved the money I earned from a paper route. I cherish the Mustang every day. I love driving it on the weekends to car shows. Also, my wife Missy and I love to travel all over the world and experience different cultures. We collect things to bring back home like art pieces.
Williams: Do your brothers and sisters sign?
Curry: Yes, both of my older brothers and my older sister sign very well. Of course, my mother is very good at signing, too!
Williams: Where and when did you learn to sign?
Curry: My mother Emma taught me Signing Exact English (SEE). That is a sign language where you sign every word. It is like speaking the English language – it’s word-for-word in sign language, as opposed to American Sign Language (ASL) where you don’t sign word for word. SEE is as simple as it gets!
Williams: How has the UbiDuo changed your life?
Curry: The UbiDuo has literally changed my life and the lives of hundreds of other deaf and hard of hearing customers. With the UbiDuo, I can talk to people I couldn’t have talked to before without a third party. Now, I can communicate with doctors, co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers anywhere, anytime. For example, one recent morning, I had breakfast with the economic development director for the city of Raytown. We simply talked to each other over breakfast using the UbiDuo. The power of face to face communication is the most incredible tool that the hearing world uses on a daily basis.
Williams: Do you consider yourself to be a revolutionary inventor?
Curry: I wasn’t a revolutionary inventor till dad thought up the idea of the UbiDuo. I think the UbiDuo is a revolutionary product. The moment I saw my dad’s drawing of the UbiDuo, I knew it could change the way people who are deaf and hearing communicate. The way sComm is growing and the path that the UbiDuo is taking shows what a difference we can make in the world. The UbiDuo has allowed me to evolve into a revolutionary inventor which we are coming out with new UbiDuo technology in the near future.
Williams: Tell me one goal that you have that you want to accomplish?
Curry: My goal – and my company sComm’s goal -- is to bring the freedom of face to face communication to everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing. We want to totally wipe out every barrier to face to face communication. Everyone should be able to experience something as simple as a conversation at a family gathering. A deaf person should be able to sit down on a couch and make conversation with another family member without any barriers. That is the mission of our company: remove any barriers in any face to face conversation.