By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Yesterday, Umoove launched The Umoove Experience. Two questions I get quite often and especially in the last 24 hours are:
- What the heck do you do?
- What is your connection to Umoove?
Allow me to answer that question with a story I never actually wrote about before. A few years back, maybe three, I get a phone call that went something like this, “Hi Hillel, my name is Tuvia and I am a founder of a company called Umoove. We developed mobile eye tracking using software only. Meaning, no need for extra hardware, any mobile phone with a front-facing camera can now track your head and eyes using our technology.”
I rolled my eyes and responded “Sorry dude, not possible. If other companies are spending billions to develop proprietary hardware in order to track your gestures in a living room where the conditions are static (same lighting, same environment), there is no way you can track my eye movements in a mobile environment using the crappy front-facing camera of a mobile phone.”
Boy, was I wrong!!
A few days later I met Tuvia and his Co Founder Yitzi and they indeed demoed me their technology using a regular iPhone. I had never seen anything like it. An ad on the page that when I look at it, bounces because it sees my eye looking at it. A game in which I control a little creature on the screen using my head only.
I was officially in shock. Well, the guys were clearly geniuses when it came to technology. But what were they going to do with this world-changing product? They were going to release a game on the App Store that would display the head tracking in the most simplified way. I was not going to have any of that. I picked up the phone right there and then in the restaurant and called friends/contacts in various leading technology companies including Microsoft and Google. I said “Stop what you’re doing right now and invite these guys in to see what they have built!” Ok, I said it a little bit more nicely than that…
It was clear to me that this type of technology will not only change mobile gaming forever, but it would revolutionize advertising by both knowing where a person is looking and analyzing their level of interest by studying their eye movements in real time. It would also clearly change the medical world giving people the ability to interact with their mobile device in a whole new way when touch is not possible. There was no way these guys were “wasting” this technology on some silly iOS game, not if I have any say!
And so, long story short, Microsoft saw Umoove and like me, loved Umoove. They invited the guys to present at ThinkNext, their conference in which new technologies are displayed. People at ThinkNext were wowed. That initial exposure opened up doors for Umoove and the company has since been approached by literally every single player in the mobile world. Period.
Now, as far as I am concerned, I continued to push Umoove, because well, I love smart people and revolutionary technology. I pitched one of my friends at the NY Times and he wrote about them. I did the same for the Wall St Journal. And TechCrunch.
After a long period of a few years, throughout which the guys were always thankful for my help, they brought me on as an official advisor with equity and an advisor salary. So there is my disclosure… 🙂
That is my current setup with Umoove, I am a Strategic Advisor for the company. And what I did for Umoove is what I like to do for amazing startups. So there are the answers to the above questions.
Fast forward to yesterday. Umoove launched its first consumer-facing product and I did the usual pitching to the press, emphasizing that the game is great, but the technology behind the game? The technology is an absolute paradigm shift. Apparently, the press agreed and in my life, I have never seen such an outpour of love for a startup.
Here is a taste of the love I am referring to: TechCrunch, 9to5Mac, The Times of Israel, Geektime, Macrumors, Toucharcade, BGR, iDownloadBlog, Recode, GigaOm, AppleInsider, Cnet, iPhoneHacks, AppAdvice, TodaysiPhone, IsraelNationalNews, TheAppleInsider, and trust me, I can go on and on.
So what now? Well, this game is just a taste of what it means to control your mobile device using your head. Now, it is important to emphasize that this is not here to replace touch. Head and eye tracking technology is a perfect way to complement touch and bring a whole new layer of interaction.
As far as this game is concerned, some of the press definitely gave honest feedback that they found it difficult to navigate with their head and that feedback is spot on! Why? Because it is not behavior we are accustomed to. But if you hold your device steady and make gentler movements than you would ever imagine Umoove can recognize, you are sure to be blown away by just how accurate and precise their technology is!
As for the company, this is really just the beginning. Stay tuned for many other verticals and apps to integrate this new form of mobile interaction. For now, if you are a mobile developer with an app that can benefit from head and eye tracking, sign up for Umoove here. It is free. Yes, you read that right. Both the app itself and the SDK to make your app Umoove friendly are free for you to use. So enjoy that!
As for me, well, I am loving the work I do with these guys and genuinely believe they are going to change the world. Isn’t that what innovation and entrepreneurship are all about?