November 02, 2016      

Machine vision hardware and software are key to self-driving cars, credit-card security, and the data collection to feed the emerging Internet of Things. The market for facial-recognition technology could grow from $2.2 billion in 2015 to $6.2 billion in 2020, predicts MarketsandMarkets.

The latest machine vision investments are examples of how more companies are teaming up to develop sensor capabilities and apply them to potentially lucrative markets.

Last month, sensor maker Flir Systems Inc. purchased machine vision company Point Grey Research Inc. for $253 million in cash.

Richmond, British Columbia-based Point Grey makes cameras and related systems for industrial automation, medical diagnostic equipment, military uses, and mapping. The company plans to launch its 10 GigE cameras and a new 20-megapixel camera at Vision 2016 next week in Stuttgart, Germany.

Wilsonville, Ore.-based Flir Systems makes thermal imaging and visible-spectrum sensors for surveillance, research and development, manufacturing process control, emergency response, and hazardous materials detection.

“We’re excited to add the broad range of innovative products from Point Grey to Flir, as together we have a unique capability to create advanced sensing solutions for the broad machine-vision market,” said Andy Teich, president and CEO of Flir. “Thermal imaging technology provides vision systems customers an alternative imaging spectrum that offers a rich, largely untapped layer of information that can be further leveraged.”

ThinCi, Oryx raise money toward self-driving cars

Also last month, Japanese automation company Denso Corp. invested an unspecified amount in ThinCi, a deep-learning, vision processing startup in El Dorado Hills, Calif.

ThinCi said its hardware and software infrastructure allow for fast processing of visual data to replicate human vision. Its technology could be useful for self-driving cars, driver-assistance systems, and smart homes. ThinCi has employees in Hyderabad, India.

Meanwhile, Oryx Vision raised $17 million for its depth-sensing technology for autonomous vehicles. Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility, and Trucks VC participated in the Series A funding.

New machine vision technology must address gaps in current capabilities.

“Autonomous vehicles need much more powerful depth-sensing capabilities than what was originally thought; existing technologies simply cannot deliver them,” said Rani Wellingstein, co-founder and CEO of Israel-based Oryx. “We have taken a completely different approach to artificial depth sensing and managed to create a solution that will truly enable autonomous driving.”

Machine vision for VR and industrial 3D scanning

Eonite Perception Inc. raised $5.25 million in May. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup makes the Vantage Head Tracker system for virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. It is designed to run at low latency on a mobile CPU.

Eonite also makes the Reality Insight software developer’s kit and Unity plug-in for real-time 3D scanning. Its funding came from multiple investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Signia Venture Partners, Presence Capital, and the VR Fund.

In addition, 3D Media Co. raised $10 million in investment from Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, SPARX Group, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.

3D Media provides 3D vision systems for industrial robots and is the first commercial spin-off of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. It plans to use the funding for R&D and mass production.

More on Machine Vision and Robotics:

Robotic sight for security

In July, VisionLabs raised $5.5 million, led by Sistema Venture Capital. The Moscow-based company plans to take its Luna facial-recognition software to new markets, including the U.S. and Asia.

VisionLabs last year worked with Facebook and Google on open-source computer vision platform. It has also worked with Equifax on credit-card fraud prevention.

As part of a recent acquisition spree, Intel Corp. bought Movidius, which makes processors for machine vision. This purchase could help Intel develop its capabilities around robotics, drones, and the Internet of Things.

Users of Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing product and Movidius’ Vision Processing Unit include Google, Flir, and drone maker DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co.).