Four months of spirited competition concluded Wednesday as San Jose, Calif-based Lucid VR won the $50,000 grand prize in the AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup.

Second-place winner BotFactory took home $5,000, according to AlphaLab Gear’s Twitter feed, while DogParker (my personal favorite) fetched the $3,000 third prize. (More info about the contestants are below.)

Pittsburgh-based robotics venture capital firm Startbot funded the prize money in the second-annual contest to find and support the best ideas in innovative new products. The final showdown played out to a sold-out crowd at AlphaLab Gear’s offices in East Liberty. Each inventor had four minutes to pitch and five minutes to answer questions from the panel of judges, who will weighed commercial viability, team capability and demonstrated commitment.

“Our goal is to build a network of hardware startups everywhere and increase awareness and interest in investing in them,” AlphaLab Gear Managing Director Ilana Diamond told the Pittsburgh Business Times. “These companies need a community and investors.”

Erik Norwood, of Austin, was last year’s winner with his device CURB, a product that monitors household electricity use, offers money-saving tips and lets users control usage remotely.

“Taking home the Hardware Cup provided real validation from the investment community that we were on to something extremely valuable,” he said. “We were able to leverage that win into closing CURB’s full seed round investment of $1.5 million later in 2015.”

Pittsburgh was represented among the finalists. PalpAid is a medical device that uses a novel combination of soft tissue mechanics and computer vision techniques to make currently qualitative and subjective breast exams quantitative. It was developed by Molly Blank and James Antaki, mechanical engineers at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here’s the low-down on the competition:

  • Washington, D.C.: PrintLess Plans creates sleek yet rugged large-format e-paper devices made for the demands of architecture, engineering and construction professionals.
  • Boston: Water Hero creates a smart leak detection + prevention + conservation system to avoid costly water damage from burst pipes.
  • New York: Sort of like Zipcar for canines, Dog Parker creates on-demand neighborhood doghouses in dense urban areas, allowing humans to safely board their pets for short stints while they step inside a grocery store, cafe or other no-pet zone.
  • Los Angeles: Rufus Labs creates The Rufus Cuff, an advanced wearable device that also allows for voice and video calls, web browsing and more on its 3.2-inch screen.
  • San Jose: Lucid VR creates LucidCam, a stereoscopic 3D camera that captures the world as we see and hear it. Its 180° wide-angle lens enables an active view, with enhanced audio.
  • Austin: EllieGrid creates a smart pillbox that allows users to organize their medications in seconds.
  • Chicago: Mohop allows users to create customizable footwear via smartphone by combining on-demand 3D fabrication with emerging body scanning technology.
  • Wildcard (audience award winner): BotFactory (of New York) brings the future of electronic circuit fabrication to desktops with the introduction of Squink. Just like a 3D Printer, the small circuit printer allows users to prototype in minutes instead of weeks at the click of a button.

The finale was judged by seven nationally renowned venture capitalists, including Pittsburghers Josh McElhattan of Startbot, Tom Jones of Draper Triangle and David Motley of BlueTree Allied Angels.

Each of the regional winners won $1,000 cash, a yearlong TechShop membership, $500 in 3D printing from ExOne and a one-year license with Altium, which designs printed circuit boards used in electronic devices.

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