Mirametrix : Looking Smart
“Our world is characterized more and more by technological innovation. I like to think that we’re helping to make the human aspect more important in the human-machine interface expression. In this world where innovation sometimes seems to be about finding a problem to solve, we develop a technology that allows for much more human, natural, intuitive and personal interactions with all of our electronic devices.”
– Denis Lavallée, President and CEO, Mirametrix
Mirametrix, a software developer specializing in AI, has designed Glance, the world’s most advanced attention detection platform. Using computer vision, Glance detects a user’s face, eyes and sightline on all electronic devices, including those in the automotive sector. It also has millions of users worldwide.
Since 2011, Mirametrix has been working with tech leaders, as well as with leading manufacturers of computers, tablets, phones and cars to develop more user-friendly, intuitive and human interfaces. When they were starting up, eye detection existed but was mainly used in academic research and was focussed on hardware solutions, which were not adapted to electronic products for reasons of cost, as well as physical and technical integration. “Our vision was to bring this technology to consumer devices, which required a software solution,” notes Denis. “We do with software what others have always done with hardware. That’s why we hire brilliant people who are skilled in computer vision.” Denis is proud of his 25 talented employees, to whom he readily attributes the company’s success. “These are young people who are passionate about their field of expertise, have superior abilities in solving technical puzzles and possess a real desire to win, which I think are the three key factors for commercial success,” he asserts.
The products that Mirametrix is proud of touch on multiple aspects of everyday life. For example, smart devices that are useful for security and efficiency. “Many of us work in open office environments,” says the company’s president. “If you’re working on sensitive data, your computer should be smart enough to detect when you’re no longer paying attention to the screen and use that information to automatically protect the data,” he explains. “When someone comes to see you at your cubicle and you turn around, the computer should know that it must naturally take action, such as going to sleep, backing up your data or dimming the screen, in order to preserve the confidentiality of your information.”
The technology used by Mirametrix is the result of a decade of academic research by the University of British Columbia, who is also a shareholder in the company. This relationship facilitates Mirametrix’s involvement in future university projects – something they intend to pursue again.
Mirametrix’s current technologies were created in close collaboration with their potential clients, and two major achievements accelerated the company’s growth. In 2015, they demonstrated the technical feasibility of their promise to bring attention detection to everyday consumer devices. And in 2016, their agreement signed with Lenovo, the world’s largest computer manufacturer, was another milestone. In addition to confirming the commercial interest in its technology, this was proof of their solution’s maturity, which successfully passed Lenovo’s very demanding due diligence. “For us, it’s a great showcase that opens up all the doors imaginable, not just for PCs, but also for tablets, smartphones and AR/VR,” Denis emphasizes.
The wow effect
In the midst of preparing for CES 2018, the “little geniuses” of Mirametrix, as Denis affectionately calls them, presented me with two applications that they were perfecting during my visit to the company’s offices.
The first one identifies the user’s sightline, using it to move the cursor from one computer screen to another. Since one of the main problems associated with simultaneously using multiple screens is that users are constantly searching for their cursor, this software naturally follows where users are looking, allowing them to always know their cursor’s location. In addition, users can move windows around with a simple eye movement. Rather than having to repeatedly slide the mouse around, the selected window moves exactly where the user naturally focuses their attention. This tool therefore directly improves productivity while offering a much simpler and more user-friendly interaction.
The second application combines face, eye and gaze detection in a virtual reality context where users can visit a place or navigate through a scene intuitively, according to their attention within the space, creating a new experience that is totally immersive.
These are just two examples, but technology allows for a world of opportunity beyond user-friendliness, security or productivity, by also enabling the detection of a user’s fatigue, distraction and emotions. New applications are quickly becoming apparent in the automotive sector, for example, and Mirametrix is already working in partnership with major players in the field to imagine and design the smart car of tomorrow.
The company is already impressive with their software innovations and they intend to continue along their exceptional trajectory. “Anytime technological innovation is involved, there’s a risk of resistance to change, or a risk of inertia in terms of the status quo,” indicates Denis. “Our challenge, in order to mitigate this risk, is to provide a superior user experience. We’re going to revolutionize the field of human-machine interfaces on all our electronic products and in the automotive industry by imagining new interactions that are more natural, more human… almost magical.”
Translation: Jenn Mierau