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Computer Vision: The Business Side of the Equation

This blog post was originally published at Vision Systems Design's website. It is reprinted here with the permission of PennWell.

Most of the discussion of computer vision these days is about the technology: algorithms, processors, image sensors, etc. While technology is obviously critical, business topics are increasingly central as well, as vision technology comes out of the lab and into many commercial products.

This year's Embedded Vision Summit therefore supplemented the well established Technical Insights presentation track with two days of Business Insights talks, which proved to be very popular and highly rated by attendees. In this week's column, I'd like to showcase some Business Insights sessions for your consideration.

First off is "A Practitioner’s Guide to Commercializing Applications of Computer Vision," by Peter Shannon, Managing Director at Firelake Capital Management. Shannon, a venture capitalist, has a unique background both as an entrepreneur and engineer in the computer vision industry. While an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where he obtained a degree in engineering, Shannon co-founded Eye Response, a company that pioneered computer eye-tracking systems and which was acquired by DynaVox in 2009.

Leveraging both his technical background and his more recent experiences evaluating investment opportunities at Firelake Capital Management, Shannon's talk at the Embedded Vision Summit explored the practical challenges of commercializing a vision-enabled product, from product requirements to development expectations through to validation and ensuring a good customer experience, highlighting key differences between development of computer-vision-based products and other types of software products. Here's a preview:

For more expert viewpoints on what does (and doesn't) make for a compelling computer vision business opportunity, the Summit also featured a panel discussion, "What's Hot in Embedded Vision for Investors?," moderated by Embedded Vision Alliance Alliance founder Jeff Bier. Shannon was joined on stage by Don Faria of Intel Capital, Jeff Hennig of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Gabriele Jansen of Vision Ventures, and Helge Seetzen of TandemLaunch.

The panelists discussed the embedded vision technologies and companies they are investing in or are looking to invest in, and shared their advice for companies and executive teams on how to approach investors, secure funding, build a successful business and secure a successful exit. Here's a preview:

Finally, for some examples of startups hoping to enter the ranks of the successful businesses conceptually discussed in both Shannon's talk and the panel, I encourage you to take a look at the video of the Vision Tank competition finalist presentations, which also included footage of the judges' feedback and results. The Vision Tank is a unique spin on the "Shark Tank" reality show; each company pitches its innovative vision-based product, and the judges (along with event attendees, via a separate Audience Choice award) make the winning selections.

Vision Tank entries were accepted beginning in January; five finalists were subsequently chosen to deliver live pitches at the Summit in early May:

  • 3DiVi, whose VicoVR Sensor, a Bluetooth accessory, brings wireless full-body tracking capability to Android and iOS.
  • 8tree, developer of the dentCHECK platform, which analyzes surface deformation issues, allowing operators to promptly fix the problems.
  • Magik Eye, which recovers 3D from a single conventional camera with a small size form factor, low power, low computation and low cost.
  • Preemadonna, whose Nailbot turns your smartphone into a portable nail salon and prints instant custom nail art directly on your fingernails, and
  • SKUR, which uses the point cloud output from vision to analyze changes in large-scale construction and facilities management environments.

The esteemed panel of judges included Cyril Ebersweiler, the Founder and Managing Director at HAX; Liz Gasser, VP of Strategic Development at Qualcomm; and previously-mentioned Don Faria, Investment Director at Intel Capital. John Feland, CEO of market analysis firm Argus Insights, acted as the event master of ceremonies. I'm not going to spoil the surprise and tell you the results, nor will the preview that follows; for the winners, you'll need to check out the full video.

I hope that the information in this week's column helps you meet (if not exceed) your business objectives! I'll be back next week with more discussion on a timely computer vision topic. Until then, as always, I welcome your comments.

Regards,
Brian Dipert
Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Vision Alliance
dipert@embedded-vision.com