Startups

Personify Live Uses Microsoft Kinect Or Other Depth Cameras For A Video Conferencing Service That Layers Presenters Over Content

Comment

A video conferencing startup called Personify, Inc. (formerly Nuvixa) is launching its first product next week, which will allow users to take advantage of the motion sensing technology in Microsoft Kinect and other depth cameras in order to overlay video of themselves on top of their presentations in real-time. Using the Personify Live software, users can present on top of their content, gesturing to it as they go along. This content can include a slideshow, computer desktop screen, streaming video, or anything else you can run on your computer.

Personify co-founder Sanjay Patel, now a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been involved in the startup industry for years. Most notably, he was CTO at Ageia Technologies, makers of the PhysX physics engine used in game development, acquired by Nvidia in 2008. Following the sale of the company, a colleague of his introduced him to the depth cameras, which he had been researching since 2004.

“They were these big, ‘research-y,’ industrial-looking machines,” says Patel. “But they eventually became the technology that’s inside Kinect.”

Upon seeing these cameras, Patel began to think about their potential use cases. “If we could get these to be cheaper somehow, and smaller, and integrated into a PC environment,” he thought to himself, “we could really improve the way people communicate with video. That was really what the passion of our founding team was,” he adds. After putting together the initial team in 2009, Personify, then Nuvixa, began to develop software to use depth cameras with video conferencing. Microsoft Kinect, of course, was known as Project Natal at the time Personify got off the ground, as Kinect’s technology wasn’t put on the market until November 2010.

The first beta test began in October of last year, offering access to a limited number of pilot users, which include SAP, McKinsey & Company, and LinkedIn, to name a few. Then a freemium product, the company had around 2,000 sign-ups for its tests, and it’s now in the process of converting those users to paying customers. Pricing starts at $20/user. Another package being offered includes 3 months of Personify’s service for free and Asus’ Xtion Pro Live depth camera for $199.

Unlike online meetings and web conferencing today, where video tends to not be as heavily used, sticking the presenter off to the side in a small box, Personify Live is designed to allow its users to better communicate with gestures, eye contact and other human-to-human interactions – more like how the presentation would appear in real world, face-to-face meetings.

Pilot testers have adopted the technology for inside sales, webinars, web app and online demos, training, education (both K-12 and higher ed) and more. However, Personify’s primary focus is on enterprise sales, where the technology works alongside the current in-house solutions including WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Lync. It can also work with Join.me, but only if using Personify’s screenshare, not Join.me’s. “Most companies already have a web conferencing suite they use,” says Patel. “We don’t want them to stop using those things. Our product layers on top of those products,” he explains.

Now at team of around 20, split evenly between Illinois and Vietnam, Personify’s other co-founders include Dennis Lin, Minh Do, and Quang Nguyen. The company is also backed by $3.5 million in Series A funding from AMD Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, Illinois Ventures, and Serra Ventures.

An interesting note about Liberty – they’re the world’s second largest cable operator, based in Europe. The company sees a potential for Personify in the living room, where users could one day video call each other over their TV’s. Instead of Skype or some other web chatting product (like what’s built into Kinect today), Personify could enable the overlay of just the person calling on top of the live TV show or movie being watched. That future isn’t as far off as you may think. Patel says that they should have demos of this by the end of next year, and possibly deployments by 2014.

In addition, he sees this as possibility on mobile by that time, too. Depth cameras on mobile?, we asked. Do you have direct knowledge of that?, we wanted to know.

“I can’t  really start talking about this stuff now,” says Patel. “But it’s happening. That’s all I can say.”

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

20 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

21 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android