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ePlanet: commercializing computer vision

ePlanet was a company founded in 1997 by John Levy, Meg Withgott, and myself. We were a spinoff of Interval Research with the goal of productizing computer vision based entertainment products for home consumers.

Computer vision?? Computer vision is the science of getting computers to see. In the same way that speech recognition enables computers to understand words spoken into a microphone, computer vision enables computers to understand images taken by a digital camera. It is an active academic area of research with amazing long term potential. However there are almost no computer vision products.

Technology At ePlanet we developed a series of real time computer vision based products. Our technology was capable of tracking people (body, head location, and arms) at over 30 frames per second using a standard USB webcam and PC. In addition, we were able to create some spectacular "Virtual Blue Screen" technology for inserting people into virtual scenes in real time. These features were immensely popular with kids, who love to see themselves on the screen, and love physical imaginative play.

Products In August of 1999 the company successfully shipped the first computer vision product for home consumers. Published and distributed by Mattel and Intel, the IntelPlay Me2Cam(TM) has since received some rave reviews. In February, 2000 it won the prestigious Bologna 2000 New Media Prize for the Most Innovative Children's Software Product. As they said, "it is one of the few software products out there which get children up off their seats and using their muscles". This was precisely our goal.

In September of 1999, after almost 3 years of operation, the company was forced to shut down. Due to a lack of VC funding (we were not an Internet company, and pretty early for the market) we had to close our doors. I'm proud of what we accomplished at ePlanet. In the process however I also learned some valuable lessons, and moved on.

© Copyright Subutai Ahmad, 1999