Soin award honors Dayton robotics start-up

DESiN LLC co-founder Jon Dekar explained how “Obi” works in a November interview with the Dayton Daily News. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
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DESiN LLC co-founder Jon Dekar explained how “Obi” works in a November interview with the Dayton Daily News. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

A Dayton company that has devised a way to help mobility-impaired people better enjoy their meals has won a local business award.

RELATED: Meet Obi: Dayton-made robot helps people enjoy mealtime

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and Soin International announced this morning that DESiN LLC has won the 2017 Soin Award for Innovation.

DESiN produces a robotic dining companion known as Obi, which, in the words of a chamber announcement, “helps restore dignity for those who, due to various reasons, are not able to enjoyably feed themselves.”

“We believe dining is one of life’s greatest pleasures that everyone should enjoy,” said Jon Dekar, co-founder, DESīN. “What our device stands for is equally as important as what it does. It represents our belief that living with physical challenges can be fulfilling and inspiring. Technology, and specifically robots, combined with modern design, should facilitate that.”

Obi is the first product from DESiN. The first Obi prototype was developed in 2006 by Dekar, who at the time was a University of Dayton engineering student.

“Dekar saw the challenges faced by people with disabilities and was exposed to stories as varied as that of his aging grandfather or a 6-year-old girl with Arthrogryposis,” the chamber said. Dekar graduated from UD and, with his father Tom, founded DESiN in 2010.

“This has been an incredible nine-year journey to go from my dorm room prototype to having Obi units manufactured and ready to sell,” Dekar said in the chamber’s release.

The Soin Award panel of judges is made up of area business leaders and representatives from small business supporters.

The creators and entrepreneurs behind Obi win a $25,000 prize and marketing opportunities.

The Soin Award for Innovation began on the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary as a way to honor the businesses carrying on the innovative heritage of the Dayton region. The Raj Soin family has been the benefactor of the award since its inception.

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