uMoove was one of the many start-ups visited while on a recent high-tech mission in Israel. Comprised of 10 people, the Tel Aviv- and Jerusalem-based company demoed its technology that lets smartphone or tablet users control content using nothing but their eyes and head.
While not perfect, it’s certainly promising.
Established three years ago, uMoove is a heavily-patented software platform that uses the device’s front-facing camera to track head and eye movements. One of the founders had a relative with ALS and while there were machines that could help someone interact with digital content – such as sending an email or browsing the web — they cost $50,000 and up and take a long time to train, says uMoove.
Demonstrated on an iPad, uMoove showed how someone could be scrolling up and down a lengthy website at their own pace while reading an article – perhaps while holding a subway pole with one hand and the iPad in the other. We also tested an arcade game called Flees from Ginormouse Games (available in the App Store), which was optimized for uMoove; using my eyes I controlled the main character by having him run left or right to avoid obstacles. If you look away from the tablet it paused the action altogether.
Truthfully, the game and motion-sensing impact was pretty basic – especially after the uMoove slideshow promised more ambitious gameplay applications like looking at targets in a first-person shooter – but you can see where this is going.
Similar to Kinect for Xbox 360 – which was also developed in Israel, by a company called PrimeSense – the front-facing camera lets you interact naturally and intuitively with content, which can enrich the experience, says uMoove, and aid those with physical challenges.
uMoove says the technology can be paired with voice commands, as well, just like Kinect. But the eye and head tracking is meant to compliment a touch interface and not replace it for most users.
Another demo had us looking around a virtual world. The first-person camera moved around according to my head and eye movements, as if I were wearing VR glasses. Again, the tech seemed like it wasn’t ready for primetime, but you get the gist of its potential. Eyeglasses, for example, seemed to be a problem with one of the other tech writers in our group, yet it worked with someone else.
uMoove says the camera uses very little CPU power, between 2 to 5 percent, and is also fairly good on the battery, at 7 to 12 percent. Because uMoove runs in the background, it’s recommended to be turned off if not needed.
Analytics are also built into the set of APIs used by developers, therefore it’s possible to collect data such as where your customers are looking on a web page first, for how long, and so on. This kind of information is also used in digital signage applications in malls and other locations.
Finally, uMoove says higher-resolution cameras found in newer smartphones and tablets, along with sensors, will result in even more accurate tracking, and also two different people up to five metres away.
While there’s no word yet on when uMoove will be, you can learn more about the company and its promising technology here – and stay tuned to Sync for updates as we get them.