Sales and marketing professionals who use video conferencing for product demos will now be able to overlay a real-time video of themselves on top of their slideshow, desktop or a background of their choice using Illinois-based Personify’s new platform. The company, formerly known as Nuvixa, today announced the launch of Personify Live, which pairs the company’s software with a depth-sensing camera such as Microsoft Kinect to show video of the presenter on top of their PowerPoint or other desktop presentations. It raised $1.5 million in Series A earlier in the year from AMD and counts companies like LinkedIn, Oracle, and SAP as some of its early beta testers.
Co-founded by Sanjay Patel, who is also a professor at the University of Illinois, the CEO and other co-founders had been researching potential uses of depth cameras since 2004, and formally brought together a team in 2009 to integrate the technology with web conferencing. “It’s an expertise that I think we’ve amassed over time, its been nine years, so we know a lot about depth cameras, and certainly the fact that Microsoft and now others are taking this depth camera technology and putting it into commercial consumer grade products is fantastic for us,” said Patel in an interview. “The technology is now at a price point that’s very attractive for the markets that we’re going into…what we want to do is leverage this technology to enhance the way people communicate over video.”
The technology creates a virtual green screen feel for the presenter, for a communication experience that attempts to come as close to being physically present in front of the audience as possible. It integrates with existing web conferencing tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Skype, and once hooked up with a depth-sensing camera (either Microsoft Kinect or Asus Xtion Pro Live) extracts live video of the presenter to then superimpose it onto the desktop to create a layer on top of a presentation.
There’s also a complementary iPhone or Android app that acts as a remote control, letting presenters mute the video feed of themselves with a click of a button, and interact with the content to emphasize and engage their audience. Users can either use it live while on a sales call or conference call, or to record and upload webinars and other presentations. The SaaS startup offer a monthly subscription for $19.99, or an annual subscription for $199. Companies also have the option to buy a starter bundle which includes an Asus Xtion Pro Live Depth Camera for $199 which includes a free three month subscription.
“When you’re trying to get your message across to your audience, your voice is not enough and people are now looking at video for enhancing their message,” Patel added. “What we’re finding that a little box of video off to a side is hardly useful, it’s small, I can’t point, I can’t speak to my content. When we unleash you, when we pull you out of that box, and we unbox you, what we’re finding is, if you’re in sales, your closing rates go up.”
Patel said that rather than competing with established players in the web conferencing arena, Personify complements and enhances the online video conferencing experience those tools offer. When asked about how Personify stacks up against Cisco’s telepresence technology, Patel replied that his company is able to bring the experience at a fraction of the cost and scale the experience to everyone’s desktop.
Although Personify Live is currently only compatible with Windows Vista, 7 and 8, the company is in the works of developing a Mac version set for release in 2013. It also sees a lot of potential in the education market with higher education increasingly becoming more digital, as evidenced by Echo360′s recent acquisition of LectureTools, and online learning tools like Coursera increasing in popularity. The company is also working on an Android app and the ability to enable groups of people from different locations to be able to jump onscreen to further drive adoption and take video chat to the next level. Whether Personify can convince businesses they need to have video of themselves layered on their presentations in order to close sales or give effective demos will be a question early customers will likely answer in the next few months.