In our day and age of digitization, the term “usability” is of growing importance. All of the devices that accompany us in daily life need to be not only extremely easy and intuitive to use, but also efficient. In a best-case scenario, users should be able to figure out apps all on their own. A new trend is moving away from the concept of people needing to understand machines, and is heading in the opposite direction instead: innovative sensors will make it possible for computers, virtual reality headsets and augmented reality headsets to understand people better in the future and help them complete their work.
The Munich startup 4tiitoo has taken on this challenge and is working on hardware and software to significantly increase the efficiency of work processes and workplaces, while also making both more convenient and natural for users. The key term is “natural user interaction.”
4tiitoo’s software NUIA makes use of human eyes, language and gestures. The aim is for power users as well as new users who are unfamiliar with a device or program to become familiar with both more easily while maximizing the efficiency of what they are doing.
A broad range: increased efficiency with NUIA
How does it work? One factor that plays a major role in “natural user interaction” is eye tracking: a harmless infrared light is beamed at a user’s eyes, and an infrared camera films the reflection of the light. After a short, one-time calibration, it is then possible to determine where the user is looking at the screen in real time. 4tiitoo is currently offering eye tracking as part of a package for browser control or Microsoft Office. As an example, the user can simply look at the toolbar in order for the cursor to move there. Especially in CAD and PLM programs in which the mouse pointer is moved to the toolbar several hundred times per day, intelligent mouse pointer support can significantly increase efficiency and save roughly 30 minutes each day. When combined with additional NUIA modules, that can quickly add up to annual savings in the five figures.
4tiitoo’s technology can be used for an array of applications. From automotive to medtech and many other industries, the Munich-based company’s customer landscape is broadening.
4tiitoo GmbH was founded by Tore Meyer and Stephan Odörfer, two IT specialists who have known each other since their young school days and wanted to establish their own project after completing their studies. The Munich startup, which also has an office in San Francisco, has been financed by Munich-based business angels since 2013. In the summer of 2014, they received additional investments from HighTech Gründerfonds and Bayern Kapital. The startup has been located in the Munich Friendsfactory since its very beginning.
Don’t miss out on digitization
CTO Stephan Odörfer links an array of positive aspects to being located in Munich:
“Munich is so well connected when it comes to infrastructure, be it via airport or train. And then you have the mountains for a fantastic way to balance work and free time.”
He also can’t complain about a lack of professionals here:
“Munich is an attractive city, and we receive dozens of applications from around the world each month. The local universities also offer an excellent selection of young individuals who are competent IT pros, so the majority of our team also comes from Munich universities.”
“Munich is on the right track”
Since they also have an office in San Francisco, 4tiitoo is quite aware of differences between Munich and Silicon Valley as business locations:
“There is so much tech in one spot in Silicon Valley, so you are constantly meeting other founders at events or during lunch. That makes interdisciplinary communication way more intense; it is networking at a whole other level,”
explained Odörfer. It is also much easier to meet with decision-makers in large companies:
“You can meet up with people within just a few days there, often over a business breakfast or coffee. That’s enough for initial clarification and determining the next steps. In Germany, however, you can end up waiting weeks for the same kind of meeting. As a result, everyone involved might end up losing a decisive competitive advantage.”
Odörfer mentioned that there simply is a greater appreciation of startups in Silicon Valley in general – former founders are often in leading positions – and they also appreciate the advantages provided by collaboration as far as innovation is concerned. Nonetheless, he commented that
“Munich is on the right track, for example by hosting the MUST event. It is extremely important for large and medium-sized companies to enter into dialog with the startup scene and to understand the importance of constant innovation in the day and age of digitization.”
That understanding should also be reflected by the amount of money being invested. As we know, Germany is still lagging behind the US market in terms of venture capital. Odörfer finds it important to actively and seriously tackle the topic of digitization for Germany in order to at least maintain its current global position instead of missing out on a chance to play an active role in shaping the future.
4tiitoo is well on its way to making a significant impact on the “natural user interaction” trend, and we wish them continued success.