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In IBM's XPRIZE Competition, No US City Is Better Represented Than Pittsburgh

Kenny Chen
Sanchoy Gupta speaks at an event on December 12, 2017 celebrating the success of Pittsburgh's XPRIZE teams. Gupta is the founder and CEO of BlipIQ, a website designed to help people with memory loss keep track of their memories digitally.

Seven Pittsburgh-based startups are still in the running for the IBM Watson  IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. That's more entries than any other U.S. city in the global challenge to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of the world's toughest problems.

To help combat addiction, for instance, local startup Behaivior is developing a bracelet that that uses biometrics such as heart rate and skin temperature to help predict relapses. 

Heading into the second round of the competition, Behaivior – which was recognized as one of the top 10 teams of round one – is still in the running for $5 million in prizes.

Local XPRIZE ambassador Kenny Chen, who also works at startup hub Ascender, said Pittsburgh is big enough to support an enthusiastic pool of innovators, but that it's not too big.

"People here are willing to rally behind this idea of socially impactful technological innovation and support each other in ways that you might not see in a larger metropolitan area or spread-out environment like New York or Los Angeles," said Chen.

Other local entries still in the running include BlipIQ, a website that helps people suffering from memory-loss keep track of those memories in digital form, and facial recognition software from Marinus Analytics, meant to help law enforcement combat sex trafficking.

In total, 59 teams from 14 countries remain in the competition. The only city as well-represented as Pittsburgh is Montreal, which also has seven teams. The next round of cuts is coming later this year and winners will be announced in 2020.