Going beyond voice control, company brings more accessibility to computers
With technology, things that once seemed futuristic become so ingrained in our daily lives, it’s hard to imagine functioning without them. For example, when the first personal computer was invented, controlling the device with your voice, (“Hey Siri”) seemed beyond the realm of possibility. These days, Mason-based Perceptive Devices is looking to push technology even further, allowing individuals to control their computer with facial gestures alone.
“Today if you have to control your computer, you have to use a mouse and keyboard,” said Uday Parshionikar, founder and CEO. “Of course, you need your hands then to operate that mouse and keyboard. But there are millions of people who have disabilities, whether it’s spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS or strokes that might prevent them from using their hands. Our technology helps them control their computer using simple facial expressions.”
These facial expressions are captured via webcam with Perceptive Devices’ primary product, Smyle Mouse. With a smile or a gentle shake of the head, users can completely control the mouse and functionality of the computer.
“Our vision goes beyond helping people with disabilities because there are also situations in everybody’s lives where your hands might be occupied,” said Parshionikar. “You might be working in the kitchen and your hands might be dirty. Or you might be a surgeon in the middle of surgery and you cannot touch a mouse or a keyboard. This platform can help in a variety of situations.”
The Perceptive Devices team has created prototypes to adapt the facial gesture technology for future iterations of computers, namely headsets for augmented and virtual reality. With multiple U.S. patents that describe how these headsets can be controlled without the use of hands or voice, the team hopes to license the technology to manufacturers of augmented and virtual reality headsets.
“For now, when you’re using augmented or virtual reality headsets, you still have to make gestures with your hands to control it,” said Parshionikar. “Even that can be impractical in some situations. If you’re a surgeon, for example, and you want to control your Microsoft HoloLens glasses, then you have to set down your tools and stick your arm out in the middle of surgery. Or you might be wearing a headset while commuting to work where it’s not practical to move an arm in front of your face. With technology like this, if you can twitch your facial muscles, you have complete control of the device — all hands and voice free.”
With the mentorship of HCDC and Cintrifuse, both partners of Ohio Third Frontier, Parshionikar turned what started as his son’s science fair project into a scalable business. By expanding the company’s vision, the Perceptive Devices team hopes that their technology will help people interact with the computers of tomorrow.
“Having coaches in these organizations has been really helpful in taking the company to the next level,” said Parshionikar. “The computer mouse was invented more than 50 years ago and now we carry our most important computer — our smartphones — along with us. I think the next step is going to be wearing your computer on your face. These connections will help make new facial gesture technology possible right here in Cincinnati.”