Makers of 'Splat' to attend startup summer camp

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John Carberry
plug-in device
Splat is a plug-in device for a smartphone that turns the phone into a gaming console.

A student-developed device that plugs into a smartphone to transform it into a video game console has caught the attention of a global venture capital firm, which has offered the students the chance to take their technology to the next level.

The device, called Splat, is the product of a tech company called Spontaneous Tech Inc. started in 2011 by a group of Cornell students, including CEO Ricky Panzer ’13. This summer, Panzer and six other team members will spend several weeks at Highland Capital Partners’ Silicon Valley office to grow their company, with the help of an $18,000 stipend from Highland, free work space and an investor mentor.

The students will attend Summer@Highland, a kind of summer camp for young entrepreneurs, along with eight student teams from other universities. According to Highland, 900 teams applied from 85 universities this year.

“We are excited to take advantage of everything Highland and the West Coast have to offer, to learn a ton, and to shake things up a bit in the tech and gaming world,” said Scott Bergman '13, the company's design lead.

The device, the student inventors say on their Facebook page, allows users to play “pure fun, face-to-face, social games.” By simply plugging into the audio jack of a smartphone, Splat enables users to tag and shoot friends while playing “Splat Warfare” – their flagship game – as well as Splat “mini games.”

“Splat Warfare,” a war simulation game, can track other players using Google Maps, and shares information like health, ammunition and time remaining. The app also posts in real-time on Facebook. As a hardware platform, developers can create new apps using the open-source application programming interface and plug-in.

Panzer, who is also co-founder of the student entrepreneur work space PopShop, sprouted the Splat idea originally as smart phone laser tag, but it has since evolved into a smart phone accessory gaming console. “Splat Warfare” could be considered the students’ take on laser tag, Panzer said.

PopShop was instrumental to the startup of the company, the students said. They were also part of eLab, an accelerator for Cornell students, along with several other startups.

Splat has made the rounds on campus and received plenty of accolades. Most recently, its founders won a $10,000 ECE Engineering Innovation Award from Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They also received the “Where’s the Boom?” award at the Bits on Our Minds (BOOM) competition in April.

The four core team members of Spontaneous Tech are Panzer, an independent major; Bergman, human factors and ergonomics; Jeran Fox ’12, M.Eng. ’13, computer science; and Benjamin Hennessy ’13, computer science.

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