The Information reports that Seattle-based Xnor.ai played a role in the Pentagon’s controversial Project Maven, but that Apple ended Xnor.ai’s involvement in the project after acquiring the startup.
By Alan Boyle, Taylor Soper and Todd Bishop
Apple has acquired Xnor.ai, a Seattle startup specializing in low-power, edge-based artificial intelligence tools, sources with knowledge of the deal told GeekWire.
The acquisition echoes Apple’s high-profile purchase of Seattle AI startup Turi in 2016. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources said Apple paid an amount similar to what was paid for Turi, in the range of $200 million.
Xnor.ai didn’t immediately respond to our inquiries, while Apple emailed us its standard response on questions about acquisitions: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” (The company sent the exact same response when we broke the Turi story.)
When we visited Xnor.ai’s office in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood this morning, a move was clearly in progress — presumably to Apple’s Seattle offices.
The arrangement suggests that Xnor’s AI-enabled image recognition tools could well become standard features in future iPhones and webcams.
Artificial intelligence is coming to a grocery store shelf near you.
Xnor.ai, a spin-out from Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, has been working with partners on low-cost, low-power AI monitoring devices, including a camera with the ability to detect when a person steps in front of a webcam.
Now the startup is unveiling a wireless device that’s designed to be clipped onto a retail shelf and send out an alert when the store is running low on a particular item.
The beta demonstration is due to take place this weekend in Las Vegas at Groceryshop, a trade show for the grocery industry.
Xnor releases do-it-yourself AI platform
Now you too can put a little AI on your device, even if you’re not up on the ins and outs of artificial intelligence.
The way to do it is with AI2GO, a newly released self-serve software platform from Xnor.ai, a Seattle AI startup. AI2GO comes with a set of ready-to-go applications and deep-learning models that can be selected and downloaded with just a few clicks.
Ali Farhadi, Xnor’s co-founder and CXO (Chief Xnor Officer), told GeekWire that the platform is designed for developers and small companies that want to take advantage of AI tools such as face recognition or object classification without having to start from scratch.
“The problem of deploying AI is getting harder and harder, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Farhadi said.
It was a big deal two and a half years ago when researchers shrunk down an image-recognition program to fit onto a $5 computer the size of a candy bar — and now it’s an even bigger deal for Xnor.ai to re-engineer its artificial intelligence software to fit onto a solar-powered computer chip.
“To us, this is as big as when somebody invented a light bulb,” Xnor.ai’s co-founder, Ali Farhadi, said at the company’s Seattle headquarters.
Like the candy-bar-sized, Raspberry Pi-powered contraption, the camera-equipped chip flashes a signal when it sees a person standing in front of it. But the chip itself isn’t the point. The point is that Xnor.ai has figured out how to blend stand-alone, solar-powered hardware and edge-based AI to turn its vision of “artificial intelligence at your fingertips” into a reality.
“This is a key technology milestone, not a product,” Farhadi explained.
“AI for Everyone, Everywhere” may sound like a science-fiction slogan, but it’s actually the name given to software from XNOR.ai that’s already making devices smarter in the real world.
The self-service software development platform is a new product for the Seattle startup, which is also announcing a $12 million Series A funding round led by Madrona Venture Group.
XNOR CEO Ali Farhadi says the new investment will help his company, which was spun out from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence last year, develop a high-end version of the “AI for Everyone, Everywhere” platform for enterprise-level applications.