Last week, the inaugural BDC Innovation Award was handed out to Montreal’s Mirametrix Inc., a company that has earned some renown for it eye tracking technology.
A partnership between the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, “the award recognizes an early-stage Canadian company that has demonstrated the ability to bring innovation to market, reshaping a sector or industry in a new or unexpected way.”
“More than 2 billion units of electronic products are sold worldwide on an annual basis,” said Denis Lavallée, Mirametrix CEO. “This award is a great validation of our go-to-market strategy and our potential for fast growth.”
Mirametrix’s eye tracking technology has potential applications for videogames, biotech and healthcare, the military, marketing and advertising, etc. It also holds several patents relating to eye tracking technology.
“The gaze tracking solution developed by Mirametrix has the potential to transform the way we currently interact with devices much in the same way the mouse did in the early 1980s,” said Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President of Subordinate Financing and Venture Capital at BDC. “The opportunity for disruption is massive.”
Researchers at Harvard, Stanford and McGill Universities have enthusiastically taken up Mirametrix’s technology, and the company currently boasts more than 250 clients, including Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Ubisoft and Sony, in 42 countries.
And, with a wave of Canadian wearable tech imminent, the need for a device and software that facilitates human-computer interaction has the potential to fit right in and enhance the power of other inventions in that ecosystem, such as Thalmic Lab’s Myo wristband or Interaxon’s Muse headband or OMSignal’s data collecting shirt.
The company’s S2 Eye Tracker is a plug-and-play USB device that sits below a computer monitor or other surface, and creates a map of where the respondent’s eye falls on the surface you’re monitoring, reporting data 60 times a second to within a .5 and 1 degree range.
Mirametrix is a portfolio company of venture capital firm TandemLaunch, which itself has received support from the BDC in the past.
Following on from last week’s surprise win at the NextBC Tech Showcase by General Fusion, a company trying to build a fusion reactor, and also considering the rise and obvious potential for wearable technology, it’s worth asking whether hardware and manufacturing are beginning to prove themselves more interesting long-term bets than the ephemeral rewards of the software and SaaS crowd.
As General Fusion’s Michael Laberge quipped after winning the award, “Software, you put five guys in a room and you feed them coffee and pizza and they produce the code. Here you have to make a big piece of steel and it costs a bit more.”
Below: A gaming application of Mirametrix’s technology: