Funding

Umoove releases first game, raises $1M

Umoove is on the move, releasing products, opening offices and closing rounds


Photo Credit: Screenshot

Photo Credit: Screenshot

Umoove, The Israeli software based face and eye tracking mobile startup, announced today (Tuesday) the release of its first product on iOS – a game featuring a first-person flying experience à la Superman style. The detail of note; flying is controlled exclusively by head movement. Umoove also revealed to Geektime the closing of a $1M funding round by undisclosed investors, as well as the opening up of new offices in Silicon Valley.

The new Face of mobile gaming

In an interview with Umoove, Co-Founder and CMO Tuvia Elbaum explained how Umoove is not about any one specific game or product, rather it’s about a very unique, and what they hope will be a very disruptive, technology. The truth is its about two technologies, if you want to be specific, which Umoove has divided into two SDKs: Face Tracking – a free SDK primarily for game developers, and Eye Tracking – a more involved technology to be licensed for use in custom products.

With regard to the Face tracking, Elbaum tells me that Umoove has already released their SDK to seven different gaming studios, with each one well into the process of incorporating Umoove’s technology into a soon-to-be-released new game. According to Elbaum, of those seven at least one is looking to release multiple games so we’re looking at somewhere between 8-10 Face Tracking games that should be hitting the market in a matter of months. But Elbaum and Co-Founders’ Yitzi Kempinski and Nir Blushtein got fidgety (which by the way you should not do while playing their FT game) and decided not to wait for the third party outfits to bring their tech to the market. Today their releasing their own game meant to serve as a demonstration of the possibilities that their Face Tracking SDK holds. The game, named simply the Flying Experience, is available for iOS and involves a first person flyer looking out beyond outstretched flying hands as they navigate broad and narrow air spaces between desert town archways and sand dune vistas. The flyer picks up points along the way by flying through scattered powerup style icons strategically placed to give the player some fun maneuvering challenges or potential whiplash if you over do it on the steering.

Elbaum explains that on mobile, users lose the complete joystick experience, which is all thumbs. Umoove’s FT tech adds a third element so that developers can start thinking in terms of  a three-way control systems; think , direction+throttle+shooting, for instance.

The truth is though, Elbaum is forgetting about the gyroscopic sensors included in pretty much every mobile device today. So there is already a third control factor and with the FT functionality developers are going to have to choose between one or the other for their games. The two are mutually exclusive – either you move the device or you move your head. You can’t really have it both ways. The question for developers will become one of experiential preference. Playing the flying game for the first time was definitely a new and interesting experience and there’s no doubt an argument can be made that the FT experience is a more immersive one for certain games. On the other hand, I wonder if constant head movement might make some feel uncomfortable. One thing’s for sure; this technology adds a whole new dimension to the gaming landscape.

Eyeing other markets

But the FT SDK is just one face of the company. Umoove’s Eye Tracking SDK is where the primary monetization vertical lies and for this reason they’ve chosen to make a clear division of markets by steering clear of the gaming world. Instead, Umoove is reserving their ET SDK for more utilitarian product enhancement possibilities and several companies reportedly are already in the process of measuring ET incorporation. Elbaum was hesitant to reveal specifics but he did list medical, eyewear, security and gesture as just a few of the industry applications giving the Eye Tracking SDK a real close look.

Umove was founded in 2010 by CEO & CTO Yitzi Kempinski, CMO Tuvia Elbaum and COO Nir Blushtein. The company picked up $1.5M in seed in Aug of 2012, and just now closed an Angel round for another $1M. The company recently opened a second office in Silicon Valley this past November and now employs 17 people. Umoove released its SDK in beta form back in May. The company encourages developers to pick up their free copy of the FT SDK by registering on their website.

Video: Umoove Brings Face & Eye Interaction to Mobile Devices

Photo courtesy: WikiMedia Commons

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