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Norbert Riepl

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Love at first click or how the eyes replace the mouse

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Anyone who has ever hitchhiked through the galaxy knows that 42 is the answer to all questions. And when the average age of the staff in the year of the company's founding is exactly 42.0, the company name comes up pretty quickly: 4tiitoo! At least that's what the founders Tore Meyer and Stephan Odörfer decided. Their solution NUIA (Natural User InterAction) may not be galactic, but it is very innovative and forward-looking: computer control with looks!

A human eye focuses its gaze with digital assistance.

Seizing the blink of an eye - computer control is revolutionised with NUIA.
 

Domesticated by a rodent

When Douglas C. Engelbart patented his "X-Y position indicator for a screen system" on 17 November 1970, he certainly had no idea how groundbreaking his invention would be. Until then, everything was done via punched cards or the keyboard, and this continued for a long time. In 1981, the first commercial mice - considerably smaller than Engelbart's wooden block mouse - came onto the market and in 1985, the mouse-controlled Windows 1.0 tried its luck. Not with great success, because there were hardly any applications for this operating system. But that changed rapidly, from then on everyone needed a computer mouse. So you could say: the mouse domesticated the PC user in the 80s. 

Increased resilience through time savings and fewer sick days

4tiitoo now wants to put an end to this subjugation. "Computer users make an average of 3,000 to 5,000 mouse clicks in their daily work," says Stephan Odörfer, managing director and co-founder of 4tiitoo, "and then there are also up to 2,000 changes between mouse and keyboard. All this costs a lot of time and has a negative impact on health." Odörfer continues: "Depending on the software used and the working style, the user can save 20 to 60 minutes of valuable time every day with our solution and use it for his actual work." Analogous to the time savings, the mouse path is reduced by up to 80% and the strain on the mouse hand is lowered: goodbye tendovaginitis! Especially companies where staff absences have an extreme impact can benefit from NUIA. And the time saved by the more efficient way of working also increases profitability. 

The mouse in view

After placing the infrared camera at the bottom of the screen, the AI-supported software is installed. After about 20 seconds of calibration to the user, the system is ready to go. The camera sensor (eye tracker) now recognises the eye movements. "The operation is intuitive, but of course there is a certain familiarisation phase," says Odörfer, "the AI remembers user-typical eye and mouse movements here and thus gradually adapts to the user individually." Over time, users also learn to click with their eyes, to execute short commands or to copy and paste. When reading, by the way, the screen scrolls automatically, adapted to the reading speed. The mouse can still be used without restriction.

Shared work is good work

Shared workstations in service centers or shared screens are also no problem. As soon as employees are logged in with their personal access or laptop, their individual profiles are applied. This still allows for flexible working even with this impressive technology. Those who work with two screens also don't have to worry: eye tracking works! Basically, the basic functions of any common software from Outlook to Chrome to SAP can be used immediately with NUIA. Only proprietary applications require adaptation on the part of the NUIA software.

By default, the software runs locally, without a connection to the cloud. Optionally, however, the added value can be collected pseudonymously by the solution in a pilot phase. Data accruing here is processed in accordance with the Basic Data Protection Regulation. Among other things, 4tiitoo uses the Open Telekom Cloud for this, which fulfils all requirements. The camera does not transmit any personal images, the software does not transmit any personal data. The AI was also developed on the basis of open source frameworks. However, the specific part of this AI-supported solution comes from the clever brains of the 4tiitoo geniuses.

I just want to play ...

Most people will be familiar with the basic technology of eye tracking through the British physicist Stephen W. Hawking (A Brief History of Time / the Universe in a Nutshell). The scientist, who suffered from ALS, used it to communicate with his environment for years. Experts use eye tracking to study the behaviour of test persons, and in cars or aeroplanes it can be used to monitor the attention of pilots. The biggest push, however, has recently come from the games industry. Here, where latency times are an absolute horror, the technology quickly caught on. The professionals in the scene can use eye-tracking to make their avatars act much faster and thus gain additional advantages in their parallel universe. 

Conclusion

"For gamers, it's more or less true - only eye speed is high speed - but the common VDU workplace also benefits," Stephan Odörfer is convinced, "a fluid workflow with less mouse work increases productivity by four to twelve per cent and at the same time improves health in the digital workplace."

Frank Barz, Senior Partner Manager Business Customers at Deutsche Telekom, comments: "We are happy to be able to offer our customers the 4tiitoo solution. And we are sure that with NUIA or comparable technologies, a radical change in computer operation will take place sooner or later. Certainly a current pilot test in our house will confirm that." 

About two dozen companies are already using the technology or are testing its use in product development. These include the software provider SAP, energy suppliers, banks and insurance companies, but also medium-sized companies, such as the furniture fittings manufacturer Hettich from East Westphalia.

About 4tiitoo 
In 2013, Tore Meyer and Stephan Odörfer founded their second joint company, 4tiitoo GmbH. Their vision: to fundamentally change communication with computers via natural interaction: "Smart Workplaces powered by Eye Control".

Today, 4tiitoo is a market leader among enterprise software companies for AI-based solutions for easy eye control of computers. 4tiitoo's products create added value in a wide range of areas, from accounting and procurement to design and software development, back office, support center and shop floor. Companies worldwide, including companies in the financial services, insurance, automotive, engineering, utilities, technology and manufacturing industries use 4tiitoo's software to improve efficiency and ergonomics at their workstations.

Die Prioritäten ändern sich. Vieles, was früher Kür war, ist heute Pflicht.

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