Eye control for smartphones, tablets wins European eHealth challenge

By Neil Versel
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SenseyeTech

Screenshot from a Senseye demo video (click to watch on YouTube)

A Danish startup company that lets people control mobile devices and computers with their eyes has won the innovation challenge at the largest health IT conference in Europe.

The company, Senseye, has developed a software algorithm that uses the front-facing camera on a smartphone, tablet or PC and an add-on or built-in infrared LED to determine the location of the eyes in relation to icons on the screen. Senseye expects to find a market for its product among physically disabled and bedridden patients and for clinicians in sterile environments such as operating theaters.

Senseye beat out six other finalists to win the eHealth Innovation Contest at the World of Health IT conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, earlier this month, part of Europe's annual eHealth Week. The winner was announced at a reception at the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Laurie Fulton.

The four principals—young scientists and postgraduate students in Copenhagen, including one who has studied at Duke and Stanford—win a trip to the U.S. to visit with executives from one of the contest's sponsoring companies, including Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, VMware and Accenture. The finalists already got a chance to meet with Kaiser Permanente President and CEO George Halvorson, who keynoted at the World of Health IT and was the guest of honor at Fulton's reception.

"At the moment we are seeking funding and partners, and this competition has helped us with that," Senseye CEO Sune Alstrup Johansen said. "We are now much closer to the time where we can bring Senseye to market." (The company actually is planning on changing its name by the summer because Taiwanese electronics manufacturer BenQ owns a trademark on the Senseye name for video imaging technology.)

Other finalists included several mobile health companies. Lund, Sweden-based Comoray has created technology to take non-invasive blood measurements with a smartphone, while MotilityCount ApS, of Copenhagen, holds a patent on a male fertility test that can be done at home with a mobile phone.

"Events of this kind brings entrepreneurs into contact with partners and others who can bring their ideas forward, raising capital, know-how, market knowledge, etc.," according to Anders Quitzau, innovation executive  and chief technologist for IBM Denmark. "But it also gives companies like IBM insight into what goes on in innovation for healthcare. With such initiatives, we can detect trends in specific areas and find new partners."