A company that’s been working on deep learning since 2006 has raised a $14 million Series A.
Neurala hasn’t been on the radar in IT circles, because its work so far has targeted vision-related tasks such as collision avoidance or routine visual inspections (think cell towers). For example, its software can control a drone to take your picture from a distance — a hands-free selfie.
But like other artificial intelligence (AI) projects such as Google’s DeepMind, Neurala aims to produce algorithms that can mimic the workings of a biological brain, work that could be applied to just about any discipline.
“The visual stuff is the most visible, but we are building all the necessary components for autonomous behavior in machines, all the way from drones up to automobiles,” says CEO Massimiliano “Max” Versace.
The Series A, due to be announced tomorrow, was led by Pelion Ventures. Other investors included Draper Associates Investments and 360 Capital Partners (which had participated in Neurala’s seed funding), Sherpa Capital, Motorola Ventures, and Idinvest Partners.
The funding comes at a time when an AI arms race seems to be developing. All of the major public cloud providers have launched AI and/or machine learning initiatives. Microsoft acquired deep-learning startup Maluuba just last week. And Intel announced the acquisition of chipmaker Nervana last summer.
Versace and his co-founders, Anatoli Gorchetchnikov and Heather Ames, started Neurala out of Boston College where they worked on applying the parallel-computation abilities of GPUs to artificial intelligence. The idea was unusual at the time, but Versace says he was even convinced that GPUs would shrink enough to fit in devices such as cellphones.
“Ten years from now, maybe less than 10, there’s another fundamental jump AI will take,” Versace says. “It’s going to look like a small rodent brain able to run on the form factor of, say, an nVidia processor. It will be more than just vision.”
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Neurala has a staff of 25, including contractors.