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VizKinect’s eye-tracking system changes advertizing game

Incorporated on Sept. 17, 2011, VizKinect’s cutting-edge biometric eye-tracking system is set to

Ellen

VizKinect founder Norm Smith (right) and COO Ron Nichols flank the development team of Mbinya Ndonye, Bailey Hein and Ellin Nesbitt at their offices at C4Cube in Reno.

revolutionize the way advertisements, movies and other media get our attention.

The VizKinect system takes eye-tracking, which has been around for 30 years in various forms, and simultaneously expands and simplify the entire process. The value to advertisers is immense, said Norm Smith, VizKinect chairman and president.

VizKinect will test focus groups of up to 20 people at once, analyze the results quickly to produce nearly instantaneous feedback.

“This will be a game changer (in several industries),” Smith said.

Advertisers and product-placement specialists will be able to tell if consumers see their message before spending millions on actually airing the ad on television or paying for a product to be in a movie.

Up until now, eye-tracking was done one person at a time in a lab with elaborate equipment. Almost every research institution has a version, but it becomes obsolete, is expensive to buy and to train people to use, plus eye color and skin pigmentation can throw off the results, explained Ron Nichols, VizKinect chief operating officer.

Not so with the VizKinect system.

VizKinect uses no invasive equipment. Test subjects either wear special glasses, or have a special scanner follow their eye movements. They just sit and watch the screen. The system records (tracks) where individuals look at a video screen. Do they look at what an advertiser or movie director wants? The data will tell.

Smith, a successful serial entrepreneur, said $354,000 has been invested in developing and refining the VizKinect system so far. It has two patents pending and numerous trademarks on the unique programs and equipment. The company is seeking $3 million from investors to expand.

“Part of the beauty of VizKinect is that it will adapt and change over time and we can use (any type of) tracking technology,” said Nichols. The uniqueness is in the system, the code and the analysis process, which the team, including Ellen Nesbitt, Bailey Hein and Mbinya Ndonye, has spent months refining and streamlining to work out the kinks.

Focus groups can be run in VizKinect’s offices in Reno or at a client’s location – with results delivered in time to reshoot for more effectiveness. Basic focus group and analysis work starts at $5,000. For an agency spending millions on producing and placing an ad, it is money well spent, Smith said.

Data can be broken down by age, gender, race and other metrics, Nesbitt said.

VizKinect is being developed at the C4Cube offices inReno.  C4Cube is a non-profit business incubator started in 2006 to help entrepreneurs start companies and to bring jobs to this area, said Ky Good, managing director of “The Cube.”

It’s working. Several types of companies have offices within C4Cube, including Eye-Com, another business working with biometrics in a very different way from VizKinect.

“Reno is a great place to start a business,” Smith said.

VizKinect is ramping up its staff. This summer it will have 10 employees and interns on board, by the end of 2013, Smith expects to have at least 72 working for the company. Most will be inReno, though the company expects to go global.

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