Prophesee emboldens its mass consumer outreach

Prophesee is searching for customers for its neuromorphic vision systems. Success could result in it becoming a $1 billion enterprise. Will that day come soon?

An article written by Junko Yoshida for the OJO-YOSHIDA REPORT, in collaboration with Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group.

What’s at stake:

Prophesee is the little engine that could. By launching its fifth-generation event-based imaging sensor and going after the consumer mass market, the French startup run by Luca Verre is demonstrating its resilience. Nothing could deter CEO Verre and his team from leaving any stone unturned in search of a market fit for its neuromorphic vision systems. The unknown is whether AR/VR is the segment that can open the volume market to Prophesee and, if so, how long might it take.

In 2014, a unique bio-inspired vision technology was an asset big enough to convince a team of scholars and a businessman to establish Prophesee.

Prophesee didn’t invent neuromorphic computing. But it has become a pioneer in commercially implementing its principle: Humans don’t record the visual information based on a series of frames. Instead, they capture the stuff of interest – spatial and temporal changes – and send that sparse information efficiently to the brain.

Prophesee has done a yeoman’s work pitching event-based sensors to neophytes, but its efforts have yet to build the mass market. 

Since most companies are accustomed to shooting frame-based film and video, asking them to switch to something entirely unfamiliar is a disruptive proposition. The startup’s takeoff has taken some time, hindered by very little commercial presence and its short business history.

On one hand, Prophesee has had ample opportunity to get its event-based technologies into many products in a variety of industries. The startup has ventured into industries that range from medical and industrial to cars and smartphones.

On the other hand, having such a wide range of design-in opportunities can be a startup’s curse, pulling the team in too many directions and running the risk of straining its resources.

Although Prophesee has a toehold in the industrial market, it still needs a product that can generate demand in massive volume.

In that quest, Prophesee this week launched its fifth-generation event-based sensor, called GenX320 event-based Metavision. The company revealed that its GenX sensor – small enough and ultra-low power –facilitates entry into the market for “edge” consumer devices for the first time. These include AR/VR headsets, security and monitoring/detection systems and always-on smart connected devices. (…)

Prophesee will succeed, largely due to its IP, a ‘top-notch’ team led by Verre, and a business model built on partnerships with industry leaders.

Notably, Prophesee isn’t alone in developing neuromorphic technology-based vision systems.

As Pierre Cambou, principal analyst at Yole Intelligence explained, Prophesee “grew out of a single tree of knowledge” – Carver Meed’s group at Cal Tech in the ’80s and Misha Mahowald’s subsequent invention of the neuromorphic silicon retina.

Other startups hanging on that single thread of knowledge include IniVation (Zürich), Celepixel (Shanghai), Insightness (Zürich) and Alpsentek (Zürich), explained Cambou. Samsung also dabbled in neuromorphics with its Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS) in 2014, Cambou added.

Cambou predicts that Prophesee promises to be the most successful of them all, largely due to its IP, a “top-notch” team led by Verre, and a business model built on partnerships with industry leaders…

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