Investments

Our investment in Visionary Machines

Meet Visionary Machines, the company giving machines superhuman vision

By

Hannah Field

July 27, 2021

We are thrilled to announce that Folklore has led the $7.5 million seed round for Visionary Machines, backing the team’s mission to deliver safer and smarter autonomous navigation. Founded in 2019 by world-leading computer vision technology experts Dr Rhys Newman and Dr Samson Lee, along with successful entrepreneur Gary Aitchison, Visionary Machines is revolutionising the 3D spatial sensing market by using camera arrays to enable machines to intelligently interact with the world. 

The pursuit of autonomy

The pursuit to build autonomous machines is a hundred years old and counting. In the last decade, we have seen a technological revolution as these pursuits moved from pure research and lab environments (think DARPA and Carnegie Mellon), to the sandboxes of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers. 

Critical to achieving full autonomy are vast improvements in processing power, declining compute and chip costs, and sophisticated neural network decision-making. But perhaps the most important piece of this puzzle is the ability to capture rich spatial data which equips machines with the information they need to safely and effectively navigate their environments.  

To date, 3D range sensing technology for autonomous mobility remains sub-optimal, with barriers for mass commercialisation that include safety, scenario completeness, and cost. While significant capital investment has been poured into radar, lidar and stereo-cameras, these modalities are hamstrung due to poor resolution, ‘noise’ (e.g. snow, rain and dust), hardware fragility, and massive AI training expenditure. Limitations are a liability and accounting for the majority of edge cases in unpredictable environments is not enough. The ability to account for all edge cases, ensuring passenger (not to mention bystander) safety, is not a nice-to-have. It is an imperative. 

To meet these rigorous safety standards, sensor fusion—i.e. combining multiple sensors like lidar, radar and cameras—has been the go-to remedy by major players in the AV space to solve these gaps. While the optimal sensor combination is yet to play out long term, one thing is clear: cameras are the only modality enabling ‘sight’, and when paired with AI, they are indispensable for supplying machines with critical information to detect and autonomously navigate their environments.

Investing in the future

Visionary Machines has revolutionised 3D sensing through its camera array technology, which delivers the ability for machines to sense with unparalleled depth, colour, motion and high-fidelity 4D. The timing is right for VM’s technology as it rides several important technology waves: the surge of low-cost camera imaging, the explosion of inexpensive and increasingly powerful GPUs, and simultaneous reduction in compute costs. In these ideal conditions, VM’s technology has the potential to deliver the most accurate, resilient, flexible and scalable sensor technology in the market, giving machines superhuman sight using off-the-shelf components. 

From day one, we have been blown away by the talent and expertise of the founding team: world-class machine learning and computer vision engineers, Dr Rhys Newman and Dr Samson Lee, who crossed paths at Canon’s R&D Centre, and experienced entrepreneur, Gary Aitchison. We believe their ground-breaking work will advance the reliability and fidelity of 3D ranging in ways previously unimagined. We’re also excited to be partnering with Amir Mashkoori on this journey, who has joined the company as CEO and is based in Silicon Valley. The market is poised for rapid growth, and across diverse sectors that extend far beyond just automotive. We believe this team is uniquely positioned to transform autonomous mobility and safety and become a global leader in spatial sensing. 

What’s next? 

Folklore Ventures is a long-range ambition machine for the great success stories of our time. With Visionary Machines, we see a success story in the making. Autonomous technology will only become more embedded into our world, from automotive to mining, construction, mapping, trucking, last-mile delivery...the possibilities are endless. We could not be prouder to join Rhys, Samson, Gary and Amir as they forge uncharted paths into a new world of truly ‘seeing’ machines in a way that has never before been possible. 

If you're inspired by Visionary Machines’s mission, get involved. They are hiring engineers who are excited about working at the forefront of AI and computer vision. Learn more about VM and apply here


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