Google Buys Eyefluence: Why This Matters
Tuesday was a strange morning for me. For one thing, I was at Disney World in Orlando without grandchildren and feeling guilty about it. I had good reason to be there. The day before I delivered my first presentation on
The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Change Everything, my third book with the amazing Robert Scoble. It was also the day when our editor, book designer and I agreed that the book was completed, the manuscript was locked up and we would move into the publishing phase.
So I started the day with a pace that was far more leisurely than I had been working nearly every day for the last year. Then I saw in the news that Google had acquired a little-known called Eyefluence. The announcement was getting modest attention: VR and AR is a news-heavy sector.
But in my view and Scoble’s this was a very big deal, one that would push the racing Fourth Transformation needle forward even than it is already moving.
Eyefluence is the single topic of a chapter called The Missing Link in our new book. In it, we explain why the company’s technology is world-changing, and those changes will be found in mixed reality headsets of the near-term future. While the technology is not yet in consumer hands, it soon will be. The company has been in talks with virtually almost every headset maker. We sense their platforms will be found in many headsets coming out in 2017–most of them Android based.
In our view, headsets will interface with users in most cases through one of two new methods: eye interaction and brainwaves. As far as we could see, the only company allowing eye interaction is Eyefluence. Let me explain briefly why it is so fundamentally important.
When we started this project, interface possibilities included voice and gestures, which have many good uses, which products like HoloLens demonstrate. There’s also winking, blinking, nodding and tapping all actions that bring back unpleasant memories of Google Glass because such interaction in public is socially unwelcome in may public scenarios.
Eyefluence, takes eye tracking, an old technology that lets a device see where the user is looking But it goes a step further: you can actually interact with computer generated objects using just your eyes in natural and inconspicuous ways. Anything you now do on a computer or smartphone, you will soon be able to do on a headset–only it will be faster and easier.
The eye is the fastest moving part of the external body. Before you move your hand, or speak, or tap on a keyboard the eye is involved first. So by using what Eyefluence calls Eye Interaction, you have a fast, better way to make things happen on a computer. If I write another book I may write it by looking at a keyboard through a head-mounted device and my eyes will type many times faster than my hands possibly could.
The only part of the body that is faster than the eyes, is the brain. There are other companies, such as Mindmaze and Ekso Bionics : Both use brainwaves to move objects in VR in applications that range from games to treating strokes, reducing pain for amputees, restoring mobility to quadriplegics, and perhaps curing schizophrenia and other brain disorders.
The point of it, is that a few years from now, we most people will be operating digital headsets with eye movements and brainwaves, which is a damn sight more elegant than tapping and nodding. In most cases it is faster and makes more sense than talking or gesturing.
Thanks to Eyefluence, eye interaction is very close to being available technology. It is a missing link that we believe will take todays promising new technologies and make them infinitely more usable in more places.
Google is a company that seems to be omnipresent in AR/VR and related technologies. From its low-end Cardboard and Daydream VR headsets, to Tango on up to its significant investment in the promising–but unlaunched– Magic Leap mixed reality headsets. While we are not convinced that the company’s many hands know what other hands are doing, Google is clearly staking much of its future on these enhanced technologies, and that makes Eyefluence a very wise and strategic acquisition.
But on Tuesday morning, my day to kick back and play at Disneyland, I was not amused that this deal came out the day after our book manuscript was locked up, I was not thrilled to tell my editor and book designer that we needed to reopen the manuscript and add a sentence about the acquisition.
Actually, it took far less work than I feared it would and I might as well get used to it. For 12 years, Scoble and I have written about the future of fast-emerging technology such as social media and contextual technology. Those two significant world changers were merely crawling on their bellies out of the evolutionary swamps: the AI-based technologies of the Fourth Transformation are speeding forward at the pace of a racing drone, and there are many developments that will keep occurring in the coming days and years.
Robert and I are committed to keeping our readers and followers current on developments such as this and telling you just what they mean to your life, work and family.