Facebook acquires eye-tracking startup GazeHawk

Facebook has acquired eye-tracking startup GazeHawk for an undisclosed sum. Facebook is not buying GazeHawk's technology; it's just hiring the startup's employees.

Facebook has acquired GazeHawk, a Mountain View-based startup that provides webcam eye-tracking services. The six-person team will be moving to Facebook next week, where they will be working on product and backend engineering. Additional details of the acquisition were not disclosed, but this appears to be a talent-only acquisition; Facebook is not interested in the technology GazeHawk developed.

GazeHawk was started in December 2009 in the hopes of building an eye-tracking service that meant you don't need to hire expensive consultants and giant companies. By leveraging the improvements in webcam technology, the company can run eye tracking studies in users own homes at a fraction of the cost of traditional custom hardware.

The full letter from GazeHawk is below:

When we founded GazeHawk, we chose to attack a truly difficult computer vision challenge. Our team took a problem that many thought to be impossible — using ordinary webcams to determine where volunteers were looking on their computer screens — and turned it into a powerful product with real potential. While we're still excited about the future of this technology, the time has come for us to move in a different direction.

While working on GazeHawk, we attracted the attention of the Facebook team, who were impressed with our ability to build out a powerful technology and platform. Likewise, we were impressed by the compelling story going on at Facebook today. As a result, we're happy to announce that we will be joining the Facebook team. There's a great culture at Facebook, focusing on fast, bold, innovative solutions, and we're looking forward to being a part of it. We'll be working on projects unrelated to GazeHawk, most likely on product and backend engineering.

GazeHawk's product and technology are not part of the acquisition and will remain completely independent of Facebook. GazeHawk has developed a best-of-class technology that does not exist anywhere else, and is committed to seeing it continue to provide benefits to others. The team welcomes suggestions and thoughts on potential options at team@gazehawk.com.

A huge thanks to Y Combinator, our other investors, our advisors, and everyone we've worked with over the last two years. It's been an amazing journey, and it wouldn't have been possible without you!

– Brian & Joe

I have contacted Facebook for more details and will update you if I hear back.

Update at 5:45 PM PST: "We're extremely happy to confirm that GazeHawk is joining Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "Brian and Joe built a really innovative startup that helped developers build more engaging web sites and online services. GazeHawk's technology and intellectual property are not part of the deal, and will remain independent of Facebook."

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