VentureBeat reports on two new high fundings for startups developing artificial intelligence. Umbo Computer Vision (UCV) works on autonomous video security systems to businesses, while Xor is developing an AI chatbot platform for recruiters and job seekers. Both startups are located in San Francisco, and UCV is a joint venture with Taiwan and has a base there and in the UK too. UCV raised $8 million for its Ai-powered video security, while Xor managed to raise $8.4 million for its project.
Xor’s capital infusion came after a year in which the startup tripled its sales in the US, “reaching $2 million in annual recurring revenue and closing deals with over 100 customers in 15 countries, including ExxonMobil, Ikea, Baxter Personnel, Heineken, IBS, Aldi, Hoff, McDonald’s, and Mars.” As the company co-founder and CEO Aida Fazylova explains, she “started the company to let recruiters focus on the human touch — building relationships, interviewing candidates, and attracting the best talent to their companies. Meanwhile, AI takes care of repetitive tasks and provides 24/7 personalized service to every candidate. We are proud to get support from SignalFire and other amazing investors who help us drive our mission to make the recruitment experience better and more transparent for everyone.”
Xor’s chatbot “automates tedious job recruitment tasks, like scheduling interviews; sorting applications; and responding to questions via email, text, and messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Skype. The eponymous Xor — which is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure — draws on over 500 sources for suitable candidates and screens those candidates autonomously, leveraging 103 different languages and algorithms trained on 17 different HR and recruitment data sets.”
According to Grand View Research, the chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025, while Gartner predicts that chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020.
For its part, Umbo develops “ software, hardware, and AI smarts that can detect and identify human behaviors related to security, such as intrusion, tailgating (when an unauthorized individual follows someone into private premises), and wall-scaling.”
The company says it has developed its AI systems entirely in-house, and their system incorporates three components.“AiCameras are built in-house and feature built-in AI chips, connecting directly to the cloud to bypass servers and video recording intermediates, such as NVRs or DVRs. Light is AI-powered software for detecting and issuing alerts on human-related security actions.” There is also “TruePlatform, a centralized platform where businesses can monitor and manage all their cameras, users, and security events.” As Shawn Guan, Umbo’s cofounder and CEO points out, the company launched Umbo Light, “which implemented feedback that we gathered from our customers about what their primary wants from video security systems were. This allowed us to design and deliver a system based on the needs of those who use it most.”
The global video surveillance market, which is now practically relying on the use of AI, was pegged at $28 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to more than $87 billion by 2025.
AI Can Help Make Wildfires Quicker To Spot And Easier To Fight
In states like California, the wildfire season has become longer and more intense, driven largely by climate change. In response to the growing threat from wildfires, according to CNN, various startups have created AI tools intended to assist in the detection of wildfires.
It may seem obvious, but early detection is important for wildfires. The earlier the blaze is detected the faster it can be contained and the less damage it will do. Thankfully, the AI tools designed by companies like Descartes Labs, based in Sante Fe, seem to be more effective at detecting wildfires than either firefighters or civilians.
The Fire-detecting tool from Descartes Labs samples images from government weather satellites every two minutes, comparing the images for differences. If there is any difference in the thermal signals in a region, it could potentially indicate the presence of a wildfire.
Current methods of detecting wildfires rely primarily on spotting fire with either planes or lookout towers, but a system that makes use of AI and satellites can detect wildfires much quicker than these methods. The New Mexico State Forestry Bureaus has stated that the AI tool has definitely helped the state locate wildfires much more quickly than before. The tool also provides first responders with descriptions that can help narrow down where a fire is, which can be difficult when there is a lot of smoke or over a mountain range at night.
Descartes isn’t the only company to try and use AI to detect forest fires. Northrop Grumman recently started a contract with the state of Calfornia to design wildfire analysis tools, and the startup Technosylva has also invested in the creation of wildfire prediction methods.
It isn’t clear yet if the technologies designed by these companies may increase the risk of false alarms as a result of increased sensitivity to possible fires. However, what is clear is that the AI tools designed by Descartes can genuinely detect forest fires much earlier than even some of the best currently exiting fire detection methods. For example, Descartes states that their detection systems were able to alert the Los Angeles Times to the coordinates of the Kincade fire very shortly after the fire started. Descartes states that so far their quickest detection time is nine minutes after the ignition of the fire. As reported by CNN, Ernesto Alvarado, wildfire expert and researcher at the University of Washington, any system that is able to detect a fire in under 30 minutes after the ignition is pretty impressive.
Descartes is beginning to explore other methods of using AI and data to help detect and track fires. For instance, the company is in the process of designing digital elevation models that can describe steep slopes that could hinder firefighting efforts. Descartes is accomplishing this by using a variety of algorithms that each vote on the position of a fire on a map and come to a consensus.
While the tools developed by Descartes and others may prove effective at enabling the quicker detection of fires, getting fire response teams into position is a challenge all its own and unless this problem is solved, fire detection algorithms may not be as effective as theoretically possible. As an example, even after a potential fire is flagged by Descartes’ tools, the fire has to be forwarded on to the correct authorities, such as a field office that can verify the existence of the fire. After this, the notification must go out to fire departments in the area who must assess the best way to respond to the fire. These logistical challenges may impose limits on just how effective fire-detection systems can be, but even so, when it comes to detecting fires, earlier is always better.
Benjamin Sexson, CEO Monogram Orthopaedics – Interview Series
Benjamin Sexson is the CEO of Monogram Orthopedics. Prior to joining Monogram, Mr. Sexson served as the Director of Business Development at Pro-Dex, an OEM manufacturer of Orthopedic Robotic End-Effectors. In his tenure at Pro-Dex, Mr. Sexson was responsible for the development, management, and launch of a proprietary product solution, helping to negate a distribution agreement with a major strategic partner.
Could you explain the mission statement of Monogram Orthopaedics?
Our Mission is to make orthopaedics personal. The current standard of care is highly impersonal. In crude terms, patients are permanently and irreversibly amputating arthritic bone to have it replaced with an off-the-shelf generic implant that, in non-clinical terms, gets “hammered” into place. We quite literally are replacing joints with implants that are guaranteed not to fit perfectly. We are working to mitigate the risks of arthroplasty with technology that drives personalization.
What type of scans are necessary in order to fully design the 3D molding for the knee or hip replacement?
We are utilizing computed tomography scans (also CT scans). Optimally the CT examination is performed at 140 kV and 300 mA with slice thicknesses of 0.625mm in regions of interest and thicknesses of 3-5mm in areas where we aren’t reconstructing anatomy with an implant.
How is machine learning used to parse the data from these scans?
Bone is a composite. It consists of compact bone at the periphery, spongy bone, and bone marrow. Our implants are designed to maximize contact with the inner cortical wall (inner surface of the compacted bone at the periphery) to improve initial stability.
The primary purpose of the machine learning algorithms is to segment bone (inner and outer cortex) from the CT scans as well as to identify the critical anatomical landmarks that inform the implant design algorithms.
Where does the 3D printing take place?
The FDA mandates highly rigorous quality standards. Initially, we will be using an ISO 13485 contract manufacturer. As we scale, we will vertically integrate.
Monogram will leverage the kinematic redundancy of robotics to allow for intraoperative obstacle avoidance and real-time tissue tracking. Will this decrease the risks of surgery complications such as blood clots or infection?
Our innovation starts with the implants – we are driving improved fixation in a smaller form factor. Infections with implants can be especially insidious and a leading cause of revision. Generally, once a thin, slimy film of bacteria commonly referred to as biofilm adheres to the implant surface, the infection is irreversible, and the implant removal is required. By reducing the size of our implants, we reserve bone stock for future revision. Furthermore, we hypothesize that our increased cortical contact will facilitate more even and proximal loading of the femur, mitigating the risk of stress shielding.
Notably, Monogram has commissioned research in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company to explore a proprietary coating with very high adherence that may reduce the risks of infection without being cytotoxic.
Will this speed the healing time for patients?
It is unlikely to reduce the healing time for patients, but it is likely to mitigate the risks of loosening, fracture, and poor placement. Improved initial fixation can lessen pain from implant migration. We also believe we will preserve more bone stock in the adverse event a revision is needed. Our implants rely on natural, long term fixation, which is especially favorable for younger active patients.
You recently chose to fundraise a Series A via the SeedInvest crowdfunding platform. What inspired you to crowdfund versus traditional VC funding?
Monogram needs a significant amount of capital to navigate the FDA approval process and commercialize our technology. The problem with traditional VC financing is that a financing round for large deals generally needs to be fully syndicated before a company has access to capital. With SeedInvest, it’s more like a shelf-offering. Once we hit our escrow target of $2.75M, we have access to those funds immediately, allowing us to hire talent and continue our development efforts as we fundraise. Furthermore, we are laying the groundwork to go public down the road, so this is highly strategic for the long term.
Monogram is in the process of onboarding a new VP of Engineering and Director of Implant Engineering. The next steps are finalizing discussions we are having with a strategic partner for licensing the generic components of our design (for example, the tibial locking mechanism) and completing the testing we are running on our knee with the University of Nebraska. Our next major milestone will be our FDA submission and from there an FDA approval.
Is there anything else that you would like to share regarding Monogram Orthopaedics?
We are commercializing highly complex technology and there is a bit of a learning curve to the industry and our technology. To accommodate people who are interested in learning more we regularly host webinars with live Q&A’s as a management team. More information on future webinars is available by clicking here.
Secretive Bill Gates-Backed Startup Uses AI for Clean Energy
Heliogen, a secretive startup backed by Bill Gates and AOL founder Steve Case, has announced that they are using artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle what many consider society’s greatest threat.
The company came out of the shadows on Tuesday to reveal that they discovered how to use AI, along with a field of mirrors, to reflect enough sunlight to generate extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius.
According to the founders, this could replace fossil fuels in industrial plants, which are responsible for over 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The newly generated heat can replace those same fossil fuels and be used in critical industrial processes, like the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals.
The huge breakthrough happened at Heliogen’s commercial facility in Lancaster, California. The firm’s founder and CEO is Bill Gross, who is also the founder of Idealab. The team consists of scientists and engineers from Caltech, MIT, and other institutions.
According to the press release, Heliogen’s main mission is to create the world’s first technology capable of commercially replacing fossil fuels with carbon-free, ultra-high temperature heat from the sun. They aim to transform sunlight into fuel in order to help solve climate change.
“Today, industrial processes like those used to make cement, steel, and other materials are responsible for more than a fifth of all emissions,” Gates said. “These materials are everywhere in our lives, but we don’t have any proven breakthroughs that will give us affordable, zero-carbon versions of them. If we’re going to get to zero-carbon emissions overall, we have a lot of inventing to do. I’m pleased to have been an early backer of [Heliogen CEO] Bill Gross’s novel solar concentration technology.”
Heliogen uses advanced computer vision software, which allows them to precisely align a large array of mirrors. They then reflect sunlight to a single target. According to the company, the technology will make it capable to eventually create solar energy levels of 1,500 degrees Celsius. This would make it possible to create completely clean hydrogen.
Heliogen is currently working with a few different partners, including Parsons Corporation, who is a global leader in the defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure markets. They have been working on developing and implementing innovative solar thermal projects for over 10 years.
“As a company, we deliver sustainable solutions to our customers and we look forward to bringing Heliogen’s breakthrough technology to scale with our industry partners,” said Michael Chung, Vice President of Energy Solutions, Parsons Corporation.
“The world has a limited window to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bill Gross. “We’ve made great strides in deploying clean energy in our electricity system. But electricity accounts for less than a quarter of global energy demand. Heliogen represents a technological leap forward in addressing the other 75 percent of energy demand: the use of fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation. With low-cost, ultra-high temperature process heat, we have an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to solving the climate crisis.”
The project has other investors including venture capital firm Neotribe and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. He is a Los-Angeles-based investor and entrepreneur, and he owns Nant Capital, an investment firm. Neotribe’s founder and managing director, Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri, and Dr. Soon-Shong are on Heliogen’s board of directors.
“For the sake of our future generations we must address the existential danger of climate change with an extreme sense of urgency,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. “I am committed to using my resources to invest in innovative technologies that harness the power of nature and the sun. By significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generating a pure source of energy, Heliogen’s brilliant technology will help us achieve this mission and also meaningfully improve the world we leave our children.”