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Tablets bring new interfaces to life from eye control to virtual experts

by David Needle

April 17 2013

Ron Croen talks to his virtual self in a demo of Volio.
Ron Croen talks to his virtual self in a demo of Volio.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Portable devices like smartphones and tablets are proving to be the go to platform for developers creating new interfaces for business and entertainment apps.

While the touch interface has only been mainstream for a few years, two companies have developed very different ways to interact with a tablet.

Ron Croen, the founder of speech recognition pioneer Nuance, showed off his latest venture Volio, at the DEMO Mobile conference here.

What is Volio? Imagine The HAL computer in 2001 as a lifelike avatar or virtual persona who speaks and gestures. With the Volio system you can create a virtual video recording of yourself (or someone else) who can respond to a range of questions in real time.

The initial Voliocast app is available for Facebook and the company has also done a custom version in partnership with Esquire that lets you “converse” with the magazine’s authors on a range of topics. The Esquire app is available on iTunes.

In a live demo, Croen made a Volio of himself and carried on a virtual conversation for  several minutes on a range of topics.

“The three major points are that it’s interactive video, highly engaging, and Volios let you talk to any personality one on one,” said Croen.

He specifically mentioned the potential of Volio to help brands and media companies get a deeper engagement with consumers.

Eye control and how it can help advertisers

Another company at the show with a unique interface was TheEyeTribe.


The Danish company has developed an advanced eye control platform that lets developers add eye control their apps. Founder and CEO Sune Alstrup Johansen specifically mentioned games as an ideal application for the technology, but there were also business and security angles.

A demo by CTO Martin Tall showed how you could blast fruit (the point of the game) and move around the screen just by moving your eyes. “The game engine knows exactly what the player is seeing and looking at,” he said. 

On the security front, Alstrup mentioned TheEyeTribe can confirm a user by their eyes and log them in. “On your smartphone you use pin codes for security. That’s so yesterday.”

Advertisers can use TheEyeTribe to see exactly where users are looking on the screen (the system can provide a heat map of where users are looking the most).

TheEyeTribe is hoping to attract developers to find new ways to use the system and also plans to license the technology to device manufacturers.

But TheEyeTribe isn’t for today’s device. The company says a next generation of smartphones and tablets will need to integrate the new LEDs that are required, but he says the cost will only be a few dollars in volume. 

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