Carnegie Mellon University


December 05, 2019

As AI-Powered Virtual Pet Marks First Birthday, LittleMoochi Wins First Place at Innovation Summit

Meant to improve children’s eating habits, the mobile app took first place and most marketable solution at the CAST 2019 Global Innovation Summit’s competition.

Beating out projects including digital predictive skin analytics and radar-sensing technology, a mobile app venture led by Swartz Fellow and second-year MBA student Summer (Qinxian) Xia had more than one reason to celebrate on its recent first birthday.

LittleMoochi earned two awards at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, a part of the 2019 CAST Global Innovation Summit. The app, which encourages children to form healthy eating habits by raising an AI-powered virtual pet, was awarded first place and most marketable solution. 

“The team is very inspired and we are working very hard to promote our beta launch,” Xia said. “While external validation is gratifying, the best part about LittleMoochi is developing something that can tackle one of the most serious (and frustrating) problems.”

Developing partnerships and seeing success 

Earlier this year, LittleMoochi won both the Forte Power Pitch Competition judges’ pick and audience choice awards, as well as a second-place graduate track win at the 2019 McGinnis Venture Competition for Carnegie Mellon student entrepreneurs. The company has also earned a spot in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Sites program and developed partnerships with pediatricians and nutritionists at UPMC.

This most recent award comes after competing against 11 teams at the competition hosted by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology-Pittsburgh Chapter

The CAST competition is meant to help entrepreneurs as teams or individuals build relationships with related companies, business incubators and investors. The three-day annual summit includes other awards and competitions for undergraduate and high school students as well as forums on innovation-related topics.

Rewarding kids’ healthy choices

Xia, a 2018-2019 James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellow, found inspiration for LittleMoochi from her 5-year-old daughter Yoyo’s resistance to eating vegetables.

Children take photos of what they are eating and upload them to the app. Then using AI, the app detects what kinds of foods are in the photo, and turns it into virtual food for pet LittleMoochi to eat. They healthier they eat, the healthier their virtual pet eats, with rewards along the way.

“It’s been an entire year since we first came together and hatched our little baby,” reads a post on the company’s blog. “Time flies when your heart is in the work!”