Anil Cheriyadat, Founder and CEO of Sturfee was a finalist in the ECVC at the 2015 annual LDV Vision Summit. Sturfee technology use mobile cameras to recognize the real world around you then augment it for travel, gaming, entertainment etc. We caught up with Anil as Sturfee prepares to launch its Augmented Reality social application...
How have you advanced since the last LDV Vision Summit?
Since the Vision Summit we have raised US$745K as part of our initial seed round. We have two Silicon Valley investing firms along with other notable angels that took part in the funding round. We are now in the process of raising the remaining part of the seed round (US$800K). We have also expanded our team to 7 and are looking for more engineers in the areas of deep learning, geometrical computer vision, and GPU programming.
What are the 2-3 key steps you have taken to achieve that advancement?
Turning cameras into novel interfaces through which we can transform live streets for travel, gaming, and enterprise applications has disruptive potential. The problem was quite interesting from AR, AI, and Robotics perspective. The approach we took was unique. We studied the problem well and put our solution through different conditions. Being the team of engineers who have worked closely before helped us to advance quickly.
Our move to San Francisco in 2015 was also key, (before that we were at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in TN), it allowed us to be close the “mothership.”
What project(s)/work is your focus right now?
Two things are in line right now, (i) we are laser focused on bringing the technology as a social consumer product for a focused group. Technology can convert physical places into entertainment zones - shoot a 10 sec video of Empire State building, place a basketball hoop on the building, and challenge all your friends to beat you! (ii) With our technology we are addressing the fundamental AR problem – estimating 3D measurements through camera lens. Existing solutions were designed to operate effectively on indoors. But for outdoors the 3D measurements can be estimated from other vantage points – even from space, this is key. We are focused on advancing our street vision engine that fuses image data captured from diverse perspectives but converging to a location.
What is your proudest accomplishment over the last year?
Biggest achievement is putting together the team. We knew that the solution we have developed for solving the AR problem is unique. It required people from diverse background. Currently our team consists of members with PhD in satellite image analysis, PhD in motion analysis, Game designer, GPU engineer, Golang stack developer, Game mechanic and iOS programmer. It’s the whole package that makes it work!
What was a key challenge you had to overcome to accomplish that? How did you overcome it?
Building the team when you don’t have money is not easy. But at Sturfee we were able to bring people together at early stages. The key to this achievement was clearly defining the problem we are solving and illustrating the vast disruptive potential ranging from travel, wearable, and robotics.
Dr. Harini Sridharan, who is now the CTO and Co-Founder joined Sturfee at the early days. We have been working on this for a long while now. The first IEEE workshop on “Computer Vision for Converging Perspectives” that I co-chaired as part of the 2013 International Conference on Computer Vision was the starting point. As the team gained more understanding of the solution it became clear to everyone that we are onto something. This was the key motivation that is pushing us forward.
What are you looking to achieve in 2017?
With our first product we plan to give people the power to generate new form of AR pictures and videos – imagine throwing a digital ball into a live or street scene and it bounces around, hits the incoming car, and files off. Streets are now game scenes! Every user with a phone can convert live streets into game arenas. We will empower people to turn streets into magic zones. We are aware that transitioning from technology to product is not an easy step. We have been preparing for this since Jan 2015.
Did our LDV Vision Summit help you? If yes, how?
The LDV Vision Summit helped us to connect with people who are really good in the computer vision business. The meetings and discussions we started off at the summit eventually resulted in angel investment.
At traditional IEEE conferences you might find groups focused on the technical areas. At LDV you have a balance of technical and business experts in the audience to network, brainstorm, recruit and many investors to speak with.
What was the most valuable aspect of competing in the ECVC for you?
Feedback from the judges was valuable. Again, it was from people who understood computer vision as/for a “business” solution.
What recommendation(s) would you make to teams submitting their projects to the ECVC?
Startups in computer vision should definitely apply to ECVC. You will definitely meet interesting folks or companies who have been at the summit before but now advancing to the later stages. That will motivate you.
What is your favorite Computer Vision blog/website to stay up-to-date on developments in the sector?
For interesting vision stuff, I read Kaptur, TechCrunch, Tombone’s computer vision blog (written by Tomas Malisiewicz).