Eyefluence, a company that has created a unique eye tracking system for use with today’s virtual reality/augmented reality headsets, emerged from stealth today with a $14 million Series B funding round.
“Eyefluence transforms intent into action through your eyes. We believe anything you can do with your finger on a smartphone, you should be able to do with your eyes on a head-mounted display — only faster,” Eyefluence CEO Jim Marggraff told TechCrunch.
While Eyefluence isn’t the first eye-controlled operating tool, it claims to be the first one to interpret intent with your eyes in real time. With eye controllers I’ve seen in the past, you need to stare to show intent, Eyefluence wanted to change this to a glance.
“Your eyes are an efficient bandwidth input channel. When you are using one of these forms of technology [such as virtual reality goggles], it starts with intent. You have intent and you want to realize that intent if you could use [your eyes] to make that happen,” Marggraff said.
As Marggraff puts it, the mouse was the first interaction tool after the keyboard and it changed the way we use software, then a touch interface came along with pinches, spreads and swipes. Now he wants his company to transform the eye-driven interface in the same way these other interaction methods changed how we interact with those devices.
He believes that the eye can be a unique interface, not one that simply moves the mouse or touch interface to the headset. He sees the need for an entirely new interaction model, and that is what his company has set out to do.
Apparently investors like what they see. They rewarded Eyefluence with a $14 million Series B round led by Motorola Solutions Inc. Jazz Venture Partners, NHN Ventures and Dolby Family Ventures, as well as other unnamed strategic and private investors also participated.
The company had a Series A round a year ago for $7.6 million led by Intel Capital bringing the total to 21.6 million raised.
Eyefluence is trying to partner with as many of the headset makers as possible with the goal of eventually being the standard user interface for headset hardware. Motorola wants to use Eyefluence technology in its Connected First Responder of the Future project. The company envisions police and public safety officials wearing a headset and gathering information with their eyes, while leaving their hands free.
As for competitors, he says he has not seen anyone close doing what he’s doing. It’s worth noting that Tobii has been doing eye tracking for some time, but it appears to be more using the eyes to replace the mouse, something Marggraff made clear he wanted to avoid.
Eyefluence didn’t have a demo ready yet at our meeting, but hopes to have one ready early next year. The company was founded by Marggraff and David Stiehr after they purchased the eye tracking intellectual property in 2013 from a company that had begun developing the technology, but was unable to commercialize it.
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