Tech Transformers

Company that lets you control devices in thin air raises $20M


A start-up that makes technology to allow you to control devices touch-free with gestures has raised $20 million to accelerate its products, including a new product that allows consumers to make selections on a virtual reality (VR) headset by touching thin air.

Israeli-based eyeSight Technologies received the investment from Chinese conglomerate Kuang-Chi, which manufactures and researches new technologies.

The solution from eyeSight Technologies allows a user to simply place their finger in front of the VR headset and move it around. A user will see a little dot through their headset and when they want to select an option, they can simply tap the air in front of them to select.

eyeSight's solution uses existing camera capabilities on smartphones that plug into VR headsets like the Gear VR or Google Cardboard. A company that produces VR headsets powered by mobile does not need to build new hardware. Instead, eyeSight can embed a code in an app or within the smartphone's software to give users the ability to use gesture control.

The funding will help eyeSight commercialize its solutions and also get a foothold in China with Kuang-Chi now on board as an investor.

"Today our problem as a company is there are so many opportunities and because we are pretty unique, it's hard to handle everything. So one use of the funding is to expand the eyeSight team both commercial and technically," Gideon Shmuel, chief executive of eyeSight, told CNBC in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Shmuel said the company also has a "ton of opportunity in China" and it will look to establish a team of 15 in the country.

"We are in discussions with a few manufacturers in China (about embedding our technology) but it's something we kept quiet about, it's work in progress," the CEO said, adding that he cannot talk about specifics because the discussions are still ongoing.

The company is not only focused on VR. Its solutions can work on a number of devices from smartphones to tablet screens. So-called internet of things devices, like smartwatches or connected fridges, are a big area of focus for the company. EyeSight currently has a product called Singlecue which is a hub that users can connect their smart home devices to and control with touch-free gestures.

Another area eyeSight wants to focus on is the auto space and developing tools to allow drivers to control features of their car through touch-free gestures.

EyeSight has been striking partnerships with key device manufacturers. Its technology is in Samsung's Artik 10 internet of things chip. With fresh funds and the backing of a large Chinese conglomerate, the Israeli start-up is hoping to strike further partnerships.