Go Beyond Tablets with PolyGaze

I love it when technology is able to keep up with me. I work at frantic paces. I’m the type of user that prefers the physical keyboard of the BlackBerry to the touchscreen of the iPhone just because of the speed and accuracy. That said, I know that it’s definitely not the speediest or most accurate interface I can think of. (The Minority Report screen comes to mind.)

Imagine if a computer was able to, through the use of a webcam, track eye movements and move the cursors on our screens accordingly. Imagine if we could execute commands by talking to our computers.  These two scenarios may seem incredible, but they’re actually much closer than they seem. Emad Mir and Vladimir Kvitnevski, two computer engineering students from the University of Waterloo, are developing an interface called PolyGaze to do just that.

The idea behind PolyGaze originated from a fourth-year engineering design project. It’s Mir and Kvitnevski’s goal to connect computers to the human brain and understand which actions the users want the user to perform. The first iteration uses the computer’s webcam and microphone to get information from the user.

This has a variety of applications. I mentioned one about control and user interface. Let’s look at a more commerce-related application: advertising.

It’s often difficult to track return on investment on internet advertising. A blog at the University of Fribourg shows the traditional F-shaped heatmaps that we’ve been able to develop through Nielsen’s work with eyetracking. With PolyGaze though, websites could potentially be able to track users’ eye patterns for themselves and determine the effectiveness of their graphics and advertisements. Web magazines and blogs can adapt and redesign accordingly to put their features in visual hotspots.

That’s how PolyGaze plans to make money: they add context-based tracking from gaze data. They’re currently in the early stages of development, and have a prototype for Google Chrome. The team has tested it on various social media sites like Facebook, and more publication-oriented websites like Wall Street Journal.

The market size for PolyGaze is growing, as around two billion people use the internet. With the introduction of apps like FaceTime and the progress of 3g and 4g, front-facing webcams are starting to become the norm on mobile devices; this is a perfect development for PolyGaze, which will use those webcams to track gaze patterns and movements.

PolyGaze finished amongst the finalists in the Velocity Venture Fund, and was awarded a grant of $25,000, incorporation, and office space to kickstart their business. If you’re interested in funding them, give them a shout. The PolyGaze team is also looking for developers interested in their product or joining the team.

Although different from the more popular development of touchscreens, PolyGaze is potentially ushering in a new era of human computer interaction by making it user-friendly and appealing to corporate interests.