Flutter: The YC Startup That Wants To Put The World’s Webcams To Good Use

Say you’re sitting at your laptop, listening to music while responding to emails, writing code, or reading blogs. Then your phone rings, and the typical scramble ensues: You minimize your browser, maximize your music app, and search frantically for the pause button or volume control — all, hopefully, before you miss the call. Sound familiar? That’s a problem that Flutter, a startup in Y Combinator’s latest batch of companies, has solved.

Flutter is an app for Mac that lets you control the play function on Spotify or iTunes by simply waving at your computer. You can watch it in action in the video embedded above. That in itself is pretty nifty — as evidenced by the 11,000 people who downloaded Flutter in the first 11 days it was available, and the 400,000 gestures the app logged from those users. In the near-term, Flutter expects to expand its functionality to control other media apps such as Pandora and YouTube, as well as to other operating systems and devices beyond the Mac.

But the really interesting thing is the company’s long-term vision, which goes well beyond the ability to start and stop a Rihanna song with a wave of your hand. Ultimately, Flutter co-founders Navneet Dalal and Mehul Nariyawala tell me, Flutter wants to power the eyes of our devices — in the same way that Siri functions as the iPhone’s ears.

It’s a big ambition, but it makes a lot of sense. Webcam hardware has become so inexpensive — about 50 cents a pop — one is included in practically any new laptop, tablet or phone that enters the market today. But we really only use them for two purposes: Shooting photos or videos, or video-chatting with others. The guys at Flutter envision a future where we use gestures along with our voices to tell our machines what to do, rather than pressing buttons or clicking a mouse. It’s all about interacting with our devices in a more natural, human way. As an expert in computer vision, Dalal especially is well-positioned to lead this push.

For now, though, Flutter is keeping it simple, trying to make the best tool for easily controlling the music playing on your computer. Maintaining a narrow focus is smart for a tiny six-person startup that’s just starting out. But it’s the long-term potential of the technology and the team that really makes Flutter one to watch.