At Sprout Insights, we comb the web to bring you the most up-to-date and actionable resources on how to use social media to grow your business.

To that end, we’re pleased to present the Sprout Insights series Spotlight on Startups. We’ll find the most innovative, useful startup companies out there, get the inside track on what they’re doing, and tell you how you can leverage their products and services for your own business.

This week we’re pleased to cast the spotlight on immersive video software maker Personify Inc. — and its flagship product Personify Live. Personify is based in Champaign and Chicago, IL.

What Is Personify Live?

Personify Live is the first web conferencing tool that overlays real-time video of a presenter onto a slideshow, video conference, webinar or any other electronic content. Using a video feed from a depth camera (like Microsoft’s Kinect) the proprietary software from Personify Live extracts you from your background — without the need for complicated and expensive green screen technology.

Live video of your actual persona is then layered atop whatever content you’d like, whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation, an infographic, or a session from the most popular web conferencing and web meeting applications. The effect is that you become literally immersed in your content — making for a much more engaging and powerful presentation. You can choose to present yourself in a live stream with your content or capture your entire screen (with your persona included) to replay at a later time.

Personify Live operates seamlessly within all major web conferencing applications, and is currently compatible with Windows Vista and above (with a MacOS version coming soon). It’s available as a paid monthly subscription, a camera-bundled edition that includes an ASUS depth camera, or you can even try the application free for 30 days.

What Needs Does It Address?

According to CEO Sanjay Patel, Personify Live was born from the need to “bridge the gap between remotely communicating with an audience versus being there in person.” Although video conferencing solutions have been around for quite a while, they haven’t really changed that much — at least when it comes to how people are displayed onscreen. “Even with higher definition cameras, what’s missing are the subtle facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal forms of communication that are so vital to convey context and meaning to your audience,” Patel says.

In traditional video conferencing or video messaging solutions, says Patel, there’s usually too much distraction around the person being video streamed. Patel says that “even if a person sits in front of a neutral background, the background itself becomes a distraction and contributes to cognitive load.” In other words, “this means that in every traditional web presentation, at least some of your presentation is not being fully understood by your audience.”

Personify — the parent company of Personify Live — has done extensive research and testing through the University of Illinois to understand and apply the cognitive psychology behind online presentations. “Our studies have shown that, unlike other video conferencing media, Personify Live applies no additional cognitive load on the viewers, so their undivided attention is focused on your content.” And in Personify Live’s solution, “you are actually part of the content,” adds Patel.

Conference calls, webinars, and web-based presentations are a way of life for the modern salesperson, and even the average business owner, says Patel. Personify Live provides the presenter (and by extension his or her audience) with all those non-verbal cues that are so important to convey familiarity and trust. Because neither complicated green screen technology nor video editing expertise are required, “Personify Live puts the power of the persona-enabled presentation within reach of everyone at your organization,” says Patel.

How You Can Leverage Personify Live

If you currently conduct web meetings, online conferences, presentations, or have avoided doing so because you thought it lacked the personal touch, then Personify Live is the next generation web conferencing solution that you’ve been looking for. You don’t need to be a salesperson or a business owner to benefit from Personify Live, however. The application puts a personal spin on any recordable presentation which can then be used to add pizzaz to your offline presentations as well.

“Our customers are always surprising us with the innovative ways they use the application,” says Patel. He cites an example of a youth repertory theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz. The company used Personify Live to video capture the young actors and placed them in a video clip of a raging tornado. “They recorded the whole thing and projected it onto a screen during the appropriate moment in the show, and it was a big hit,” says Patel.

Personify will soon be launching a second product — Personify Chat — a two-way video chat tool that overlays all participants onto a shared background. In the meantime, feel free to sign up for a free trial of Personify Live, or connect with the company on Twitter or Facebook.

Know of any other startups that would make a good feature on Spotlight on Startups? Contact us, or let us know in the comments below.

[Image credits: Personify Inc., birgerking, Personify (FB) ]