The Eye Tribe, which took the stage today at TechCrunch’s CES Hardware Battlefield, is developing hardware that allows users to control technology with the motion of their eyes.
In fact, co-founder and CEO Sune Alstrop Johansen told me that the company has started shipping its first units and software development kits (they’re available for $99), and that the initial users should be receiving them now.
Johansen said The Eye Tribe has also raised another $1 million in seed funding, bringing its total seed/angel funding to $1.8 million. (It also received a $1.3 million grant from the Danish government.) The money comes from “primarily existing investors, board members and key individuals from the US,” he said — new backers include former semiconductor executive Richard Sanquini.
CES marks the first time that the finished product, not just a prototype, has been demonstrated publicly, he added. And although the initial version was built for Windows, he said the company is unveiling a Mac version too. As for the iOS and Android versions that the company has mentioned in the past, Johansen said they’re still on the product roadmap but declined to get specific.
I didn’t get a chance to try the product out for myself, but if you’ve ever wanted to see someone play Fruit Ninja with their eyes, well, watch this video.
As you can probably guess from the fact that an SDK is included, the company is currently focused on recruiting the developers that it hopes will actually build applications that take advantage of these capabilities. In fact, when a prototype of The Eye Tribe Tracker was demonstrated in our Hardware Alley at last fall’s Disrupt Europe conference, the company said it was also going to provide free trackers to developers with the best ideas.
Those ideas also help answer the question, “Why the heck would I want to control software with my eyes?” — they give a sense of what people could potentially do with the technology. The winners include an idea for a device combining eye tracking and EEG technology to help those with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) communicate, as well as ideas for driver assist applications, breast cancer detection, drone control, and improved reading on tablets.
Last fall, a company representative told us that users don’t have to train themselves to act differently. Instead, they claimed that after the initial calibration, users could just let their eyes interact normally with applications and the software should respond accordingly.
The company has also said the eventual goal is to partner with hardware makers who want to integrate these capabilities — so in the future, you could get a tablet with eye-tracking capabilities built in, rather than having to buy a separate to device. In fact, Johansen told me this week that the company is setting up an office in Palo Alto “as we believe this will be the best place for us to engage” with the manufacturers.
Back in August, I wrote about Closing Time, the new service that was launched to simplify the process of buying a house. It does so by creating a comprehensive list of things that the home purchaser needs to do in the month or so between signing a contract and picking up the keys.
The company recently closed on a $2.7 million round of funding that will help them expand the service and maybe, in the future, attack new verticals. (But that’s a long way off.)
Along with Accel Partners, the list of investors in this round reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of former Yahoo execs. That includes Yahoo founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, former SVP and treasurer Gideon Yu, former SVP Vish Makhijani, former CTO Zod Nazem, and former CPO Ash Patel. Oh yeah, Rob Chandra, formerly at Bessemer Ventures, and Owen Van Natta, former COO of Facebook, Myspace, and Zynga, are also investors.
The investor list makes a lot more sense when you consider that Amitree founders Jonathan Aizen and Paul Knegten sold their last company, display ad startup Dapper, to Yahoo in 2010. So there’s some confidence among that group that whatever these guys do, it’s probably going to be good.
The funny thing is that the Amitree guys didn’t really know very much about real estate when they started. But you know, one of them was going through the process of buying a house and then realized how much it sucked and how there needed to be better tools for completing the process. So they built that tool.
(They didn’t know much about ads either when they started Dapper either, Aizen tells me, but that worked out ok.)
Anyway, in the process of building Closing Time, the two founders spent a significant amount of time educating themselves and talking to agents and brokerages to figure out what their needs were and how the product could help their clients through the home-buying process.
Aizen tells me that a big reason for that is that they wanted to be a partner to brokerages and agents, you know, something that helps them out, rather than compete with them. And that, in turn, will help Closing Time get better distribution, as it’s a tool that agents can offer up to their clients.
To enable that, the company has created a way for brokerages to create their own branded Closing Time portals, which shepherd the home buyer through the process. In that way, agents can provide a smoother transition, increasing customer satisfaction and hopefully increasing referrals. With that in mind, it’s partnered with some brokerages — like Zephyr in the San Francisco Bay Area — to offer it to clients.
Amitree’s seeing pretty good traction among active users, with most opening its emails and going to the site every day. It’s also getting good feedback, with 85 percent of users who went through the process saying that they’d refer their agents to other buyers.
Amitree is still pretty lean at just three employees. Aizen and Knegten recently brought on former Dapper coworker Tony Novak as their CTO, and are looking to double in size thanks to the new funding.
For now the team is focused on real estate but they see huge opportunities to expand into other verticals with the abstract rule engine that they’ve built. And hey, they’ve now got some money to play around with.
According to Verizon, a new Nokia phone is set to land in the United States. Dubbed the “Icon,” the Lumia handset sports a 5-inch screen, a 20-megapixel camera, a quad-core processor, and a 2420 mAh battery.
The device looks, as The Verge’s Tom Warren correctly points out, like a smaller version of the Lumia 1520, a phone already in the market. The Icon name appears to be final. As WPCentral uncovered here at CES, cases labeled for the Icon can already be found.
Windows Phone has seen strong success in the past year selling lower-priced handsets. But the platform, what you could call the combination of Microsoft software and Nokia hardware, has struggled to find market share in the United States and the upper-tiers of the maker globally. The Icon, provided that it is well-priced, could help ameliorate that stress point.
Pricing isn’t clear for now. The Verizon website has the phone pegged at $777 both off, and on contract. So we’ll have to wait for official figures. Tip: It won’t cost $777 with a new two-year contract.
The upper end of Windows Phone hardware is now quite diverse, with the Lumias 925, 928, 1020, 1320, 1520, and Icon each battling for share of a still-small pie. But, more and better hardware has never been a recipe for unit volume decline, so perhaps the muddle can be excused.
Current market news has been positive for Microsoft, but not groundbreaking. The company recently indicated that it saw “record sales of Windows Phone this holiday worldwide, nearly doubling phone sales during Christmas.” But as Microsoft will admit, doubling from a small baseline is only so strong an achievement.
For now, another Windows Phone looks set to land. If it can turn heads in the United States is a fair question. The comments are yours.
Chrome/Firefox: Facebook's privacy settings are, quite frankly, a mess. The only thing harder than figuring out what's being shared is deleting all of your activity. Fortunately, there are scripts to help with this.
As Business Insider points out, removing all of your Facebook activity can take hours. However, Absterge—a script that works in both Greasemonkey and Tampermonkey—can automate this process by deleting everything in your timeline. If you need a bit more nuanced control, Facebook Timeline Cleaner performs a similar task. Though, in testing, Business Insider found it was a little wonky to work with. Your mileage may vary.
To the disappointment of everyone who wants to learn to code so they can get rich or powerful, developer Dave Winer tells us that's probably not going to happen. He lists good reasons why you might want to learn to code, but recommends you learn to run a server first.
Learning to code is good if you have a calling, if you feel it's what you must do to express yourself. If you have ideas that you can implement in code that no one else is doing. Or if you just love the puzzles that programming is constantly presenting you with. You have to have a certain amount of self-hatred to love programming, btw, because it's a grind. And to do it well you have to have a lot of all of these things.
You might think that by learning to code you get to be the Man Behind the Curtain, the all-powerful person who makes the digital world work. But that's not what coding is about. If you want power, and I've said this many times — rather than learn to code — first learn to run a server. That's real power. And it's far easier than programming.
Plus, running a server, Winer says is a gateway into programming. This advice echoes a previous perspective about learning to work with technology (only it's less dismissive of the benefits of learning to code).
Sprint just set up a landing page for its upcoming "Framily" plans (that is not a typo) that will allow anyone to set up a shared service plan together. Up to 10 lines can be shared and each new person on the line lowers everyone's bill a bit.