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Intel adds vision to its AI vision with computer vision firm buyout

Eyes up Movidius, reaches for its wallet

Intel is not just content to build the silicon brains that will power the Rise of the Machines – it is bidding to own their eyes too, with the acquisition of computer vision developer Movidius.

Movidius is 11 years old, having been founded in Dublin and transplanted to San Mateo. No price was disclosed, but the 140-strong firm has raised around $90m in funding in the past, and according to the Irish Times was valued at around €250m last year.

As for its technology, it was previously used in Google’s Project Tango computer vision platform, and according to its website, works with the likes of Lenovo, and DJI to “give sight to smart devices including drones, security cameras, AR/VR headsets and more”.

Intel's new technology group boss Josh Walden describes the deal in a blog post, saying it gives Intel “low-power, high-performance SoC platforms for accelerating computer vision applications” as well as “algorithms tuned for deep learning, depth processing, navigation and mapping, and natural interactions, as well as broad expertise in embedded computer vision and machine intelligence.”

While the technology is initially geared towards camera apps, Walden said: “We will look to deploy the technology across our efforts in augmented, virtual and merged reality (AR/VR/MR), drones, robotics, digital security cameras and beyond.”

Less spookily, Walden said the technology opens “opportunities in areas where heat, battery life and form factors are key.

For Movidius’ part, CEO Remi El-Ouazzane, said “Movidius’ mission is to give the power of sight to machines,” and this would not change as part of Intel.

“We will continue to operate with the same eagerness to invent and the same customer-focused attitude that we’re known for, and we will retain Movidius talent and the start-up mentality that we have demonstrated over the years.

Mmm, that might be slightly trickier, given the sprawling, Borg-like nature of Intel. Still, the vendor is certainly making a run away from boring old grey boxes and straight at the drones/robots/AI space. This week it also secured a waiver from the FAA to run a 100 strong drone fleet over the US.

Last month it hoovered up AI chip startup Nervana for $350m, while its x86-based Xeon Phi processors have been lined up to deliver the backend grunt for the machine learning underlying AI. ®

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