Startup of the week / eyeSight gets things moving
An Israeli start-up is bringing motion-control technology to just about every device you own.
In the early days of computing, we only had the keyboard. The next development was the mouse. Nowadays we can interact with computers in a variety of ways, from touch to voice. The Israeli startup eyeSight is betting that motion is the next big thing. It hopes to bring Natural User Interface, the technology behind the Xbox Kinect and Wii gaming consoles, to other digital devices, like cell phones, tablets, televisions and computers.
“The company specializes in NUI, which is also known as Gesture Control or Motion Control,” says eyeSight’s CEO, Gideon Shmuel. “We’re purely a software company. We don’t manufacture hardware. We just create software for partners in the hardware world. We started out in 2005 in the mobile world, so we also have experience working in a tough environment. Cellphones are in motion all the time, so we have to know how to filter out the background noise and home in on the user’s motions. Mobile devices have limited processing resources and short battery life. All these things are challenges that we deal with using a complex algorithm.
"We have NUI solutions for every need, including motion-tracking capabilities from a distance of one centimeter to several meters. There’s the ability to track the movements of hands and fingers and identify motions and gestures such as ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ [thumbs up or thumbs down], the ability to identify several users in a room, all done by means of the gestures that are most natural to users, in accordance with what they need.”
EyeSight works with companies at all level of production. Its software is installed on chips and equipment when they leave the factory or can be put on devices following production.
“A Hisense television was put on the market with our software. So were cellular telephones manufactured by Pantech, a Korean cellphone manufacturer," says Shmuel. "We are also involved in several other projects, including one with a well-known television manufacturer, and we will be going to market with a large computer manufacturer as part of its Windows 8 computers.”
About two weeks ago, eyeSight announced a partnership with a Korean manufacturer to create motion-controlled smart televisions.
Asked whether it's not a bit strange to wave at a computer or mobile device, Shmuel said, “The moment you have a TV connected with NUI, you’ll understand. It’s just like how we got used to the mouse. I have a program installed with my Windows machine, and when I want to send a slide from a presentation or a song, I don’t have to look for the button.”
The company’s next project is software that replaces the mouse, allowing users to move a cursor simply by poiting. EyeSight works in the same industry as PrimeSense, an Israeli company that manufactures chips for Microsoft’s Xbox.
But Shmuel says he doesn't see PrimeSense as a competitor. “I say ‘Thank you’ to Microsoft and PrimeSense every morning," he says. "They educated the market. The difference is that PrimeSense manufactures chips that are suitable for advanced cameras. We work in the mass market, and our products are also appropriate for televisions with weak processors and simple cameras.”
When eyeSight was established in 2005, it focused solely on technological development. Shmuel joined the company at the beginning of 2011 to help bring its products to market. The company, which has 32 employees, has raised almost $10 million to date, and 7 million in the past year alone. Its investors include Professor Eli Talmor, Mitsui Global Investment of Japan, the Korean-Israeli Mac Fund and CEVA.