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AI photo-processing start-up that can help driverless cars detect pedestrians wins GTC Inception Awards

The GTC Inception Awards are the equivalent of Dragon’s Den for tech start-ups. Some 1,600 tech companies from across Europe entered the competition before being whittled down to a final group of ten that were chosen to pitch their ideas to the judging panel at GTC Europe 2018. Sam Forsdick speaks to this year's winning company, Brighter AI.

From clearing up the road ahead for driverless car sensors to anonymising people in photographs, an AI photo-processing start-up could be set for big things after winning an industry award.

Berlin-based Brighter AI was named the best start-up implementing artificial intelligence technology from a line-up of ten at the GTC Inception Awards in Munich this week.

In a three-minute pitch to a panel of industry experts, co-founder Marian Glaeser explained its technology could take images captured in bad weather, fog or poor lighting, and clear up the image to “remove impediments”.

On winning the award, Brighter AI will receive $100,000, an NVIDIA DGX supercomputer and will benefit from sales and marketing advice and technical support to help it grow faster and improve the performance of its AI technology.

Mr Glaeser told Compelo: “We were up against extraordinarily good start-ups so we feel very proud to have won this.”

Brighter AI
Brighter AI wins the GTC Inception Awards 2018 (Credit: NVIDIA)

 

How AI photo-processing tech works

Explaining how the AI photo-processing technology is applied, he said: “What we do is take raw images and apply perception layers on top to make the data better to understand.”

For example, images taken during dark light can be brightened up by its own version of night vision to show clear imagery of objects that wouldn’t be seen otherwise to the naked eye.

The software can also be used during severe weather such as heavy rain or fog to clear up a picture.

So far, Brighter AI has found success working with automotive companies that are collecting a lot of visual data in the development of self-driving cars.

Mr Glaeser added: “The idea sparked with the thought that if AI can improve my vision at night, what would this mean for my driving?

Brighter AI, AI photo-processing
Brighter AI clears fog from picture using AI photo-processing technology

“And if it was bad weather could I use a camera on the car to see completely through fog?”

The importance of this was highlighted by events earlier this year when Uber’s driverless car hit and killed a pedestrian when being tested at night.

Brighter AI was already developing its technology at the time and took the data Uber released from the collision to run through its night vision system.

Mr Glaeser said the driverless car failed to detect a person in the images 92% of the time when looking at the raw dimly-lit image to being 84% certain that there was a person in the image once it had been cleared up by the AI photo-processing software.

Currently, Brighter AI is able to improve two to five frames per second, but with improved processing power and optimisation it would be possible to run it in real time on the vehicle.

 

AI photo-processing anonymises people in pictures

Mr Glaeser discovered an additional benefit of the technology when EU regulation on data protection was introduced under GDPR.

“We were working with car companies already that were having vision issues and asking us to clear their images,” Mr Glaeser said.

“Then, on 25 May [when GDPR came into effect], they said: ‘Guys we have a problem, we can’t send you the data anymore.’”

Mr Glaeser replied, informing the car companies that Brighter AI’s software could also be used to make their visual data GDPR compliant, by anonymising people and removing number plates automatically.

Brighter AI software being used to anonymise Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Brighter AI photo-processing software being used to anonymise Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

“Companies are using more and more data but at the same time privacy laws have become more limiting,” he said.

“The question is how can Europe compete in the international innovation war in the world of AI?”

Brighter AI believes it has the answer with its AI photo-processing software.

 

GTC Inception Awards finalists

Other start-ups that pitched at the GTC Inception Awards included:

  • Retina AI, which offered an AI-based solution to detecting the onset of blindness in patients at an earlier stage
  • Serket, which used computers to monitor the health of livestock on farms
  • Conundrum, which used AI to help improve manufacturing processes

The GTC Inception Awards were started three years ago by computer chip maker NVIDIA to help and nurture start-ups working in the world of AI.