Vicarious snags $15M for visual artificial intelligence

Faith Merino · August 21, 2012 · Short URL:

The company is developing technology to mimic the human brain

If you had told my grandmother 50 years ago that someday we would have technology that could instantly recognize and identify someone’s face in a picture, she would have put her snickerdoodles away and told you to get out of her house. 

Artificial intelligence has come a long way over the years, and it’s about to take a big new step.  Vicarious, an artificial intelligence company that launched back in February 2011, is developing machine learning software modeled on the human brain, and the company announced Tuesday that it’s raised a $15 million Series A round of funding led by Good Ventures, the investment firm created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.  Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund also participated in the round, along with Open Field Capital and angels Steve Brown and Zarco Investment Group.

Vicarious has some ambitious goals.  The company’s first product is a visual perception system that has been designed to interpret the contents of images and videos the same way the human brain does.  The system is powered by Vicarious’ flagship technology, the Recursive Cortical Network—essentially, technology that mirrors the neocortex, which controls the higher functions, such as sensory perception, language, and spatial reasoning.

The technology has a wide range of applications, from robotics and medical image analysis to image and video search.

The company was co-founded by Dileep George and D. Scott Phoenix.  George has authored 22 patents on brain circuits and was previously the CTO of Numenta, an artificial intelligence company he co-founded with Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky.  Phoenix, a serial entrepreneur, was previously an Entrepreneur in Residence at Founders Fund and CEO of Frogmetrics, a touchscreen analytics company he co-founded through Y Combinator.

Of course, we already have face recognition technology, like, which uses complex algorithms to map the human face and automatically identify people in a picture.  But Vicarious wants to take their technology beyond the act of simply memorizing a shape and identifying all other objects of the same shape.  They want their technology to be able to interpret images, perceive the space around it, and even understand the concept of cause and effect.  Dileep George says that the technology will advance to real human intelligence in about 15 years.

“Building machine intelligence is one of the most important and challenging problems humanity has ever faced.  Advancements in neuroscience, probabilistic models, and computing power are enabling new strategies for AI research,” said Dileep George, in a statement.


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