Imagine that you could see your computer screen in three dimensions on your wall, and control it with only a flick of the finger. Israeli startup MUV Interactive – which exhibited earlier this month at the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES 2016 – has designed exactly that. Called “BIRD,” this smart sensor ring can control the content displayed on computer and television screens; or, with the use of a projector, it can control anything projected onto any flat surface, turning walls, desks and floors into large interactive touchscreens.
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Using a Bluetooth connection, BIRD connects to a computer or a mobile device, whose content can be pushed, pulled, grabbed, rotated, and swiped in midair, as though desktop computers never existed.
When we tested it, the BIRD was as simple to use as a pencil and as precise as a computer – with the added advantage that it could be used while lying on the couch!
Though only a plastic shell, this 7 centimeter-long controller is embedded with sensors that can pinpoint a finger’s position, pointing direction, hand posture, and pressure level on any surface – down to the pixel. And, it also has voice control.
The device integrates with Mac, iOS, Windows and Android, and charges through a cradle that is connected to a USB port. The current pre-order price is $249, but MUV Interactive is expecting the price to rise to $349 when the product is released this spring.
Although gaming giants Nintendo and Microsoft’s XBox have separately developed motion-tracking devices to pair with its consoles, MUV Interactive is focusing on the business and education sectors. The company believes BIRD can be used most effectively when it offers collaboration and learning.
“We are starting with those markets because there is a real need for interactivity there,” Iris Toledano, head of marketing at MUV Interactive, tells NoCamels. “I think that we are the only solution that supports all the different kinds of interaction methods. We are the only device that allows you to socialize and collaborate.”
The company claims BIRD is the first device of its kind that supports up to 10 users simultaneously, within a range of 30 meters. Moreover, its adjustable strap means that children can use it as well.
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These touchscreens aren’t really screens
The germ of the idea can be traced back to 2010. Rami Parham, founder and CEO of MUV Interactive, thought that there could be a better way to make presentations interactive. While managing IT projects at Systematics by day, Parham started working on the idea in his parents’ garage with his brother, Robert Parham, a former product manager at IBM and Microsoft, who is now an adviser to MUV. The idea grew and grew until this “home project” became a startup company in 2011.
Still, the budding startup had to perfect the design; BIRD had the relevant patents, but it wasn’t exactly user-friendly. The original prototype was large and clumsy. The user would put on a large glove-like contraption, heavy with wires, which would travel up the arm. Once in its proper place, the technology was difficult to maneuver. Engineer Rami Parham, a graduate of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, understood that if anyone was going to use the device, it had to be comfortable, easy to use, equipped with powerful computing power — and yes, small.
A few prototypes later, Parham developed a device that has since garnered $4 million in investment from Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and from Russian venture capital firm Titanium Investments.
MUV Interactive is one of the few Israeli startups in this space; Israeli molecular sensor SCiO, though not a direct competitor, also works in the same IoT, almost sci-fi, arena. However, MUV faces competition in North America. For example, Leap Motion, a small butter-bar sized block that sits in front of a computer, enables mouse-free control of on-screen applications; the San Francisco-based company has already raised over $40 million since its inception in 2010.
Meanwhile, Canadian company Thalmic Labs has raised over $15 million from the likes of Intel and Spark Capital for its ‘Myo’ wristband sensor, which allows users to flick through presentations, navigate drones, and capture extreme sport selfies with a snap, point or flick.
Yet, with Google, Apple and Facebook snapping up IoT technologies – from smart homes to virtual and augmented reality – chances are the opportunities for interactive interfaces such as MUV’s BIRD are only widening.
Perhaps the control room in the influential film series ‘Hunger Games’ isn’t science fiction anymore?