Google Acquires Eye-tracking Startup, Eyefluence

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There is no denying that Google is a big fish in a small pond when it comes to its impact on the internet, and it seems that the internet giant has no intentions of slowing down any time in the foreseeable future. On Oct. 24, eye-tracking startup Eyefluence, quietly announced that it had been acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum. It is likely that Google will use the technology developed by Eyefluence to further its programs that are centered on virtual reality, such as Morningstar.

Who are they?

Eyefluence is a tech startup that was founded by Jim Marggraff in 2013. Marggraff is considered a serial entrepreneur who has a knack for launching startups. He previously launched Livescribe, a smart pen company that was later acquired by Anoto.

During an interview last year, Marggraff told a Time magazine reporter that eye interaction software has the capacity to facilitate better command and control of computer components. Imagine having the ability to do anything on a computer, tablet or smartphone that you can currently do with your hands and fingers with your eyes. Some things that users will be able to do with their eyes include zooming in on content, navigating through data and gathering information, and users will be able to accomplish these tasks much faster with eye-tracking technology.

After two rounds of fundraising, the company has been able to raise $21.6 million dollars to fund the launch. Series A was funded solely by Intel Capital, and the second round was primarily funded by Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.

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Why the purchase?

For those who are wondering why Google has shown interest in Eyefluence, well, that is actually quite simple. Google has displayed a continuing interest in virtual reality and augmented reality applications. It is possible that the search giant may have acquired the company as a future strategy in improving its newly-launched pixel phone line. This new line currently has virtual reality capabilities that are facilitated by the Daydream VR headset, a device that bears some similarities to the Samsung Gear VR platform in the manner in which it functions.

The complete scope of Googles plans for the eye-tracking startup is still to be determined. Something else that should be considered is that the acquisition also secured the ownership of the intellectual property and patents owned by the company. This acquisition will definitely function as a counterbalance to Microsoft’s and Facebook’s continued research in the area of virtual reality.

Google will gain a critical set of utility patents, 18 to be exact. These patents range from biometric security scanning to UI interaction and eye-tracking. Eyefluence also has AR interaction patents that have the capacity to positively impact hi-res gaze tracking — allowing users to use their eyes for security and continuous identification. This technology could lead to the replacement of thumb scanners and passwords on computers and smartphones. The intellectual properties will serve as effective tools for Google in its quest to expand its technology arsenal. It is no coincidence that Google made this acquisition just weeks before the launch of its Daydream View headset. It is obvious that attention is already being focused on the search giant’s next generation headsets.

Central Focus on Eyefluence

Eyefluence’s central focus is on the development of eye-tracking technology, which is proving to be an integral component in the continued development of virtual reality capacity. In fact, eye-tracking is immensely important to the future of virtual reality headsets. Other players in the virtual reality game have already invested in using the eye as a means of signaling attention in user interfaces; however, Eyefluence has committed itself to using eye gestures as cues that allow users to navigate through menus, as well as making selections.

Eyefluence has developed the capacity to allow users who are wearing head-mounted augmented glasses or virtual reality headsets to use their eyes to make a selection from the menu. This can be done by simple eye movements. Additionally, eye-tracking technology can be used for more technical uses, such as foveated rendering, a process that allows high-density displays to have the capacity to select certain areas on the screen to display images. The resolution of the image will vary based on where the user focuses in relation to the display.

According to experts, this acquisition is not a huge surprise when all things are considered. The technology produced by this company is nothing short of exceptional.

What this means is that Google has picked up a critical piece of technology to support its virtual reality ambitions, allowing the search giant to move its VR concepts closer to the masses.

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Moving forward

It is not certain what role, if any, Jim Marggraff will play in the development of the technology moving forward, but it is his innovative approach to virtual technology that has made this move possible. Marggraff started Eyefluence after acquiring the assets from the neurological research firm, Eye-Com. When he launched Eyefluence, he did so with a pledge to create technology that would allow users of VR devises to have the capacity to manipulate digital screens and objects with their eye movements.

It seems that Marggraff was definitely on to something, because functional eye-tracking has become a highly coveted feature in the world of augmented reality and virtual reality. This technology creates the capacity for interaction between the physical world and digital images. Eye-tracking technology will also serve to reduce some of the accessibility and latency issues that currently exist — relegating the nascent media to a niche market.

One of the reasons that this acquisition is not surprising to those who have been following the development of virtual reality technology is because Google has invested quite heavily in the development of virtual reality products — introducing its own mobile headset at the beginning of October and launching tailored software that supports VR. What is also noteworthy is the fact that Google invested directly in Magic Leap, which is a tech startup that has been reported to also be working on eye interaction technology.

The world of virtual reality no longer seems like a far fetched idea, and Google is intent on being at the forefront of its development and introduction to the masses.


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