Machine vision firm SiLC Technologies Inc. today announced a $17 million Series A funding round. The Monrovia, Calif.-based company said it plans to use the investment to expand operations and accelerate design and development in preparation for production and product launch.
SiLC was founded in 2018 by a team with more than 25 years of experience in photonics, product development, and manufacturing. The startup said it uses a proprietary, silicon-based semiconductor fabrication process to manufacture its chips at scale. SiLC said its standard, automated integrated circuit-style assembly enables robust, cost-effective, and compact optical components.
The company claimed that it has created “the industry's first and only fully integrated FMCW [frequency-modulated, continuous-wave] 4D imaging chip – a significant step forward in the quest to make machine vision more like human vision.”
SiLC builds 4D+ Vision Chip
SiLC Technologies said its “breakthrough chip integrates all photonics functions needed to enable a coherent 4D vision sensor offering a tiny footprint while addressing the need for low cost and low power. Demonstrations have shown a range beyond 300 meters and are applicable to a wide range of applications.”
“Image-processing capabilities of AI systems remain vastly inferior to those of humans, despite the use of massive computing power and high-resolution camera sensors,” stated Mehdi Asghari, founder and CEO of SiLC. “The key difference is that our visual cognition is based on far more information than traditional image sensors. Our 4D+ vision sensors provide critical additional data and cues needed for efficient machine image processing and visual cognition much like the human eye does to the brain.”
Currently being readied for broad deployment, the 4D+ Vision Chip “offers best-in-class performance metrics across range, resolution, and accuracy for lidar sensors,” said SiLC.
In addition, the system adds vector measurements including velocity, light polarization, and reflectivity, according to the company. The additional information derived from this data can provides context and improve perception of the environment, with applications in autonomous vehicles, biometrics and security, robotics, and more, said SiLC.
Over the past year, SiLC has provided development systems to customers in mobility, industrial machine vision, robotics, augmented reality, and consumer applications. It said the new funds will help it provide more customer support as it brings its products to market.
Investors interested in improving machine vision
“The quality of investors we have attracted underscores the transformative potential of SiLC’s unique technologysaid Mehdi Asghari, founder and CEO, SiLCThis latest funding round will be critical as we continue on our journey towards revolutionizing the 3D sensor market.”
Alter Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital led SiLC's Series A round. Other participants included Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund by Innovation Growth Ventures Co. (IGV), Epson, UMC Capital, Yamato Holdings, and Global Brain. After a $12 million seed round in 2020, the new financing brings SiLC’s total funding to over $30 million.
“SiLC has differentiated itself by being the only company to date that has successfully integrated an FMCW imaging system on a cost-effective silicon platform, giving them huge potential in the large, fast-growing imaging market,” said Daniel Docter, managing director at Dell Technologies Capital. “SiLC’s approach is the only viable one for the large-scale adoption needed to advance the state of robotics, autonomous vehicles, biometrics, security, and more.”
“We are focused on advancing our position at the forefront of lidar technology, and thus understand the impact of SiLC’s approach will have to enable human-like perception across autonomous driving, robotics, smart cameras, and beyond,” noted Sebastian Stamm, principal at Fluxunit – OSRAM Ventures. “We are impressed by the team’s accomplishments in silicon photonics and the unprecedented level of integration and scalability of their FMCW chip, which will be key for broad adoption of coherent 3D sensing.”
“The prior entrepreneurial successes of the SiLC executive team, coupled with deep engineering expertise in optics, semiconductor design, networking, and embedded application software development, will enable the company to overcome hard technical limitations that have previously plagued imaging, opening doors to a new era of smart automation,” added Louis Toth, managing partner at Alter Venture Partners.
“Building on its silicon photonics expertise, the SiLC team takes an innovative, fully solid-state approach to LiDAR. Its FMCW solution makes autonomy safer in various environments thanks to its long-range and high-resolution sensing,” said Gen Tsuchikawa, chief investment manager for Sony Innovation Fund (SIF) and CEO and chief investment officer of IGV. “Our investment in SiLC further expands our mobility portfolio, and we look forward to SiLC growing its business across the automotive, robotics and industrial markets.”
“SiLC’s technology is a game-changer,” said Kris Peng, president of UMC Capital. “Their solution enables legacy-based lidar’s transition towards FMCW, [and] their highly integrated solution enables scalability and shrinkability and at scale.”
“SiLC has the potential to usher in a new era of white-box AI, which can measure full motion of all objects without any training data nor [an] HD map, taking away the guesswork required for existing solutions,” he said.
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