Because of the work done by Olenka M. Polak ’15, non-English speakers will be able to go to the movie theater and enjoy blockbusters in their native tongues. myLINGO, the mobile application developed by Polak and her team, allows users to sync non-English dubs to movies in theaters in real time.
Polak and her team were among the winners of the Harvard College Innovation Challenge which seeks to reward students pursuing entrepreneurship on campus.
Polak and her brother, Adam Polak, first imagined the idea of dubbing in real time in July of 2012, when they noticed that their parents never joined them on trips to the movie theater. Polak’s parents, who primarily speak Polish, said there was no point if they could not understand the language spoken.
After this conversation, Polak and her brother searched for a way to share the movie theater experience with their parents.
“We were astounded that there wasn’t already a technology [like this],” Polak said.
Realizing they had a potentially marketable idea, Polak dove into the world of entrepreneurship, making use of research and office space at the Harvard Innovation Lab to develop what has become myLINGO.
“I had no idea what entrepreneurship was. I just thought [myLINGO] was a really good idea,” she said.
The Polaks have two patents pending on the technology that was finished in December, and plan to apply to distribute their application on the Mac App Store in two weeks.
Polak said that the resources she has had access to at the i-lab have been invaluable.
Describing the experts the i-lab brings in, Polak said, “They send a few emails and magic happens. I would not have my demo today if it were not for them.”
I-lab director Jodi Goldstein said that these resources are exactly the benefits that the i-lab can offer developing projects like myLINGO.
These resources include work space, workshops put on by experts in the field, mentorship by a current entrepreneur in residence, and immersion events into “entrepreneurial ecosystems,” among others.
myLINGO is one of over 100 ventures currently in residence at the i-lab, about 25 of which include undergraduates.
Goldstein said she was impressed by Polak’s project, especially given Polak’s young age. “[myLINGO] is such a simple, elegant solution to such a large problem,” she said.
Though Polak, whose brother currently works on the project full time, is considering taking time off from school to focus more on myLINGO, ultimately she said that she is committed to completing her studies.
While Goldstein said that she understands this dilemma faced by student entrepreneurs, she said she hopes the i-lab offers a way for students to continue their projects while staying in school.
“We want to support entrepreneurs at the University so students don’t have to drop out to pursue their dreams,” Goldstein said.
—Staff writer Marco J. Barber Grossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @marco_jbg.
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