ATU342 – Tecla E with Mauricio Meza


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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show notes:
Tecla E – Mauricio Meza – Co-founder and CEO of Komodo OpenLab
Holiday Shopping shows – episodes 339 & 340 |

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——-transcript follows ——


MAURICIO MEZA:  Hi, this is Mauricio Mesa, and I’m the cofounder and CEO of Komodo Open Lab, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 336 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on November 3, 2017.

Welcome to episode number 341 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017.

Today I have an interesting and extended conversation with Mauricio Mesa who is the cofounder and CEO of Komodo Open Lab, the makers of Tecla E, an interesting switch interface for all kinds of things, mostly your smart devices.

We hope you check out our website at, give us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line. We love to hear from you. That number is 317-721-7124.

The show is being released in the middle of the holiday season, and just before Christmas. If you’re listening, it is possible that you might be interested in assistive technology gifts for yourself or someone that you know. We’ve thought of that. We have some helpful stuff. If you are new to the show or have just missed episodes number 339 and 340 of assistive technology update, you should go back and check them out. We did part one and part two of our annual holiday shopping show where we have staff from Easter Seals crossroads who are just fun and interesting and fairly people, but also happen to know a lot about assistive technology. We recommend all kinds of gifts, everything from sleep tracker to smart watches, and talk about different kinds of technology that might just go very well in the stockings of one of your loved ones for the Christmas holidays. Head on over to That will take you to our list of shows and the four episodes number 339 and 340 and check out our annual holiday shopping show.

Not long ago, I was looking at things on the Internet related to assistive technology and adaptive input methods. With the world of mobile changing and becoming so much more prominent, my eyes gazed across a thing called Tecla E. I knew this was something that we have familiarity with you at the INDATA Project. In fact, we have had some early versions of this technology in our lab for a while. I realized recently that there is some new stuff happening. I was so excited when Mauricio Mesa decided that he would come on our show and talk with us a little bit. He is the cofounder and CEO of Komodo open lab, which is the organization that creates this technology. We are excited for the conversation today.

Mauricio, how are you?

MAURICIO MEZA:  Good. Thanks for having me.

WADE WINGLER:  In the preinterview, you and I were joking around a bit. I’m not sure I’ve set on the show before. My first name is actually Maurice, and that’s the same as your Starbucks name?  Is that what you are telling me?

MAURICIO MEZA:  My name is usually hard for people at Starbucks, so I have to go by Maurice, or if I am lazy, I go with Mark.

WADE WINGLER:  I have some people who want to call me Moe, and I haven’t allow that to happen. Mauricio, thank you for being on the show. Before we start talking about the technology, I would love to hear little bit about the story of the name of both Komodo open lab and also Tecla, the product. Can you tell me the stories of those names?

MAURICIO MEZA:  The company name Komodo open lab is before my time. Before I joined, my cofounder, Jorge Silva had started something. The company was more like a group of guys that were trying to do some open source development. The two of them and myself, we are Mexican. Jorge wanted to call his group Iguana Labs, but it was taken, there was another company called iguana, so he went for the next a big reptile that he could think of.

WADE WINGLER:  Just another lizard.

MAURICIO MEZA:  It’s funny because when people see the name, sometimes they think are you Finnish or Japanese?  That’s interesting. Or they think about the commode.


MAURICIO MEZA:  Sometimes it’s a bit tricky. The name Tecla for the product, it comes from the word in Spanish for keyboard. The reason for that is because the torsional thought behind Tecla is that it was going to be a keyboard for your phone. That’s why we went with Tecla. At the beginning, it was Tecla with a “K,” but there is a company that develops software for architecture, and we realize there was software on the app store that had Tecla with a K. they let us know that they had the copyright, so we changed it to Tecla C. Sometimes people confuse us with Tesla. It’s getting more known.

WADE WINGLER:  We’ve been familiar here for a while. I think we had one of the early versions of the product. That sort of leads to my next question, which is how long has Tecla been around?  When and why was it created?

MAURICIO MEZA:  The first version of Tecla came out in 2012. In that first version, it was very much a proof of concept. It was based on an Arduino board, and we developed a second board that would connect two switches and wheelchairs and to the Arduino part. Everything else we were making ourselves. We were using rapid prototyping like laser coding and 3-D printing to make the enclosures. It was a way to get the product as soon as we could into users’ hands. I think we were the first switch interface for iOS devices that actually worked with the operating system, not with a specific app. That was the first version. The second version came out, and that’s what most people would know, Tecla Shield. That came out in 2013. All the people who bought the first one, we try to interview them and get feedback, and that’s what we use to develop that. From the first one to the second one. The second one was compatible with android, iOS, computers. It had a built-in batteries. For example, one of the first assumptions we did for the first one was that it was going to be very easy to connect to a wheelchair battery. It turned out that that was really expensive to find the right cables. Each wheelchair manufacture has their own cable. That’s why we had the built-in battery on the second one. We just reduce the footprint as much as we could while still providing long battery life.

Basically the idea behind Tecla came when Jorge and I came up with the idea in separate ways. Jorge, more from the research and development side, he was working at a research center here in Toronto developing assistive technologies. He saw the need to provide access to mobile devices. I used to work as an assistive technology consultant at a spinal rehabilitation center here in Toronto. When the iPhone came out, that’s what everyone was asking about. Will I be able to use the iPhone?  At the time, if you couldn’t use a touchscreen, there was no way you could get access to a smartphone. That was the inspiration and how we started smartphones accessible.

WADE WINGLER:  That alludes to my next question. Let’s talk about what Tecla, what functionality it provides, and who is it for.

MAURICIO MEZA: Tecla is for anyone who doesn’t have the dexterity to use a touchscreen efficiently. We were with people with very limited mobility, with very high spinal cord injuries, and people with MS, all the way down to people with lower spinal cord injury where maybe they don’t have the fine motor skills to use the keyboard on the smartphone, or people with tremors, weakness, for whom touchscreen are not ideal. They can use alternative access, a switch or joystick, the wheelchair driving controls, to have access to the phone or tablet.

The Tecla Shield is a Bluetooth interface to your phone or tablet. You can use it to control your iPhone, iPad, android device. On computers, you can use it for a switch interface. For example, Mac computers have built-in accessibility features that are compatible with Tecla, or on Windows you can use it with scanning software. We also have a mode that you are able to use for switches or a joystick, you can control the pointer from Tecla.

WADE WINGLER:  So we have Tecla Shield and now Tecla E?  Is that right?

MAURICIO MEZA:  Yes. Tecla Shield was one-to-one. You needed one Tecla Shield per device you wanted to control. The reason for that is we had a very solid and consistent connection. We are always connected. If the mobile device try to put us to sleep, we wake it up. That connection is very solid, but then we have to maintain it. The user would have to turn off Bluetooth from one device in order to connect to a second device. They wouldn’t be able to come back to the original device.

That’s the first issue we are addressing with Tecla E. Tecla E can connect to up to eight devices, and the user can independently switch between them. That was one of the biggest requests from users that don’t just have a phone or tablet, they have a phone and tablet and communication device, a computer. They want to control an Apple TV. So with Tecla E, they can switch between those devices.

WADE WINGLER:  That makes total sense. I just think about my usage of technology. I have an iPhone and iPad and computer in my desk and a laptop and another one in here in the studio. Some days, I will use all those device that varies periods throughout the day. That totally makes sense. You said it can do up to eight?

MAURICIO MEZA:  Yes, it can do up to eight.

WADE WINGLER:  Excellent. As I was doing research, I read that there is a cloud component related to Tecla. What is that about?

MAURICIO MEZA:  The second part of the Tecla E is that it is an Internet enabled device. We have Wi-Fi connection and a 3G connection through the cellular networks. There are two reasons behind that. The first one is that we can control smart home devices. Through the Internet connection, you can assign your switches connected to Tecla to devices that are connected to the cloud. For example, if you have Philips Hue lamps or light bulbs, you can assign a button to turn on the lights in your living room, you can assign another switch to turn the lights on in your bedroom, or to change colors, things like that. If you have WeMo switches – these are wall plugs that you can control remotely. You can plug in your fan or AC or heater. Those smart home devices are now switch accessible. They can be assigned to switches that you have connected to Tecla. For example, you can have the joystick of your wheelchair so that when you’re using it just by moving the different directions, you are controlling your phone or tablet, but if you do a gesture like pressing and holding a specific direction, you can trigger lights or a fan or something like that.

The reasoning behind that and why we think that’s going to be a very popular feature is that we’ve done some work with older users or users in continuing care where they are spending too much time on their own. Their main feedback was, we want to control a few things but really easily. For example, we did a study here in the hospital. Some of the users wanted to have the ability to turn the TV on and off with a switch or have the ability to send a text message with a preprogrammed message, or have the ability to turn on a light. You can do that and you don’t even have to be in front of your phone or tablet to control those functions.

The second part that we are using the Internet connection is that the Tecla has built in location, temperature, emotion, and light sensors. That information right now can be shared. The owner or user of the device can invite people to track that information on the Tecla. By following a Tecla, they can know where a wheelchair user is or other conditions surrounding the user. If it is too hot in the summer or if they are outside in the winter, to make sure that they are okay. That is the subjection service. That is an add on service like an in app purchase.

WADE WINGLER:  I didn’t realize all that functionality was there. If we are controlling common devices in the home, we are doing it with a gesture. So there is not a display on the Tecla E, right?  Talk to me about the hardware. What does it look like physically and how does it work?

MAURICIO MEZA:  The actual hardware is interesting because it is also a switch. The entire enclosure is a switch. It is probably 10 centimeters long and about an inch tall. Someone can use their fist or elbow to hit the switch, they can use the switch a built in. Now, we don’t have any screen on the hardware. Basically you connect your switches, and by activating the switches, you control your wireless devices around you.

However, we do have a companion app. The companion app serves two purposes. One is to do the setup on the hardware. You can reassign switches to do other functions. For example, you can say, this in my wheelchair I want up and down to control my phone and tablet, but I want left and right to send a command to an Internet enabled device like a light or switch. You can do that through the app. You can also see the sensory information and invite people to follow the information.

The second part we have is the app is also a software remotely can customize. Following on the idea of making things very easy for users, in the app, you can create speed dials. Instead of having to navigate to the phone app or the contacts to find someone you might want to call, you can create a list of contacts that, by just pressing a button on the app, you can start a call. We also have shortcuts for text messaging and email. The same idea as a template, you can put the name of the person you are going to contact. You can put a subject line and even a message. So if you are using always the same message, like I am on my way, you can create a button that, when you click it, the message is sent and you don’t have to type the entire message and select the contact.

Another part of the app is you can assign buttons to control appliances. The similar idea what the hardware switches, but through the software. We have integrations with IFTT, If This Then That. If you’re familiar with it, it is an online service or you can connect online services and products. A lot of these smart home devices are part of this platform where you can basically say when this happens, I want this to occur. In this case, the Tecla switch can be assigned or the buns on the app. When I press the switch, I want this action to trigger. That is one of the indications we have.

We also have integration with Logitech Harmony. Any activity that you can control through harmony – for example, with the harmony hub, you can have a macro that will turn your TV on, change the specific channel, and maybe dim the lights. You can call that watch the TV. That can be triggered with a button on the app.

One of the coolest indications we have is we can also use Alexa. We can use it two ways. We can give you to access to the voice service, so you press that button that we bring up a pop-up that you can give your voice command to Alexa and it will execute it. But for those users that maybe they don’t have a voice that Alexa understands all the time, or maybe they forget the commands, then they can create a button where they can actually type the command to Alexa, so turn the lights on or what is the weather, and then when they press that button, that command is sent to Alexa and Alexa responds. And if you have the Logitech Harmony hub integrated with Alexa, that gives you access to functions like changing the TV channel, muting the TV, changing the volume. You have access to those nitty-gritty functionalities that harmony remote can provide.

WADE WINGLER:  I had no idea that the level of conductivity of integrations that were built in. That’s pretty impressive stuff.  We are starting to run out of time for the interview, but I have some questions I have to get in. Tell me about battery life, and then price, and availability.

MAURICIO MEZA:  Battery life is about 48 hours of continuous use. If you have it on, it will be just over two days that you can use it. If you turn it off between using it, you can probably get around four days of use.

WADE WINGLER:  When will this be available, or is it available now?

MAURICIO MEZA:  Technically it is available now. You can order from our website. We should be able to ship in one to two weeks from when you place your order. The main unit is $499, and we have a couple of accessories like a mount that you can use to mount to a wheelchair by attaching it to any round or square tubing. When you have that mount, that disables the built in button so there is no extra or miss activation by moving around in your wheelchair. If you need to mount the tecla still have access to the switch, you have a built in screw that is compatible with any camera mount. Any amounts for cameras can also work with the Tecla.

WADE WINGLER:  Before we finish, tell me a quick story about somebody’s life who’s been impacted by Tecla.

MAURICIO MEZA:  One of my favorite stories is one of our users in Ireland. His name is Owen. He contacted us a couple of years ago when he found out about it. He has cerebral palsy and he wanted to start using his iPad. He told us when his birthday was coming that he was going to get the Tecla. When he got it, he was contacting us all the time. He was suggesting features. One day he contacted us saying that he needed another Tecla because when he had was broken. He was super urgent and send us an email saying that it was the first device that he turned on in the morning and the last thing he turned off at night. If it wasn’t for Tecla, he wouldn’t have a girlfriend. I found that very interesting. I reached out to him. How come you wouldn’t have a girlfriend?  It turns out that he charmed a girl via Facebook that he was accessing with Tecla on his iPad. By having access to the same services that his peers in the school were using, he was able to charm her. I’m really happy for time I see selfie’s with him and his girlfriend on Facebook.

WADE WINGLER:  Now you are in the business of making love connections. You are a matchmaker. That’s great. Before we finish up here, if people wanted to learn more or make a purchase, what should they do?  Is there a website or phone number?

MAURICIO MEZA:  They should reach out to our website. It is We offer a service where, if they are not sure what they need, they can set up an appointment. We give them a call and walk them through how the product works and what they may need. Our users may need some help with what kinds of switches are available and how they can access them.

WADE WINGLER:  Mauricio Mesa is the cofounder and CEO of Komodo open lab and I’ve been talking to us about Tecla and Tecla E. thank you so much for being on the show.

MAURICIO MEZA:  Thanks for having me.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact***