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In what could be a breakthrough in the swimming world, a Beirut entrepreneur has created a pair of goggles that can measure the heart rate while the athlete is in motion under water.

As a swimmer on her college team at the American University of Beirut, Hind Hobeika says it never made sense to her that her practices were organized according to heart rates, even though this was always measured after the cool-down period.

Using infrared technology, her invention, the ButterflEYE, takes the heart rate through light signals. A green flashes when the swimmer has reached his target, yellow means speed up, and red tells the swimmer to slow down.

“I always had an idea in the back of my mind that there should be something like this,” says Ms. Hobeika. “The challenge is to read the pulse in the temporal artery and get the exact right angle to reflect the movements. I didn’t want a belt or anything hanging from the earlobe. Swimmers want to have the least amount of weight possible.”

In spring semester of her final year, the engineering student participated in the Qatar-based reality TV show Stars of Science, similar to the U.S. show American Inventor.

“I was following the corporate track”

In developing her invention, her background in mechanical engineering helped her with waterproofing the circuit, choosing the right material for the shell and the sensor, and determining the right shape for the aerodynamic design. For the digital part of the design, she learned the electronics from scratch.

While working through the prototypes of the device, she came to the revelation that she could become an entrepreneur.

“The whole competition was life changing,” she says. “I was following the corporate track. I’d done an internship at Proctor and Gamble. But I realized in Doha I wanted to develop a company for goggles.”

After coming in third place, she was contacted by several business development centers and investors in Lebanon to develop and market her goggles.

The best offer came from Berytech, a business development and incubation center affiliated with St. Joseph University, located just outside of Beirut.

Lebanese are among the most educated in the region, but because so many of its new graduates go abroad the country lags behind in technological innovation. Berytech hopes to change this. They offered her seed funding, incubation and mentorship in exchange for equity in her company.

In August, the project was one of four new technology start-ups to be awarded money by Berytech’s seed capital fund, which granted her $100,000.

She is now seeking a patent in the United States. She expects the first batch to be on the market in about a year and a half. The goggles will sell for around $100.


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