Visual technologies were once considered cute, niche & science fiction.
With more visual technology companies like Pinterest and Zoom going public, the world is starting to see the impact that visual technologies will have on our everyday lives.
Large acquisitions of visual technology companies range from GM acquiring Cruise for more than $1 Billion, Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye for $15.3 Billion and a growing list of unicorns from SenseTime, Improbable, Magic Leap, Zoox, and Niantic among others.
These companies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how visual technologies will empower businesses across all sectors from autonomous vehicles, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, security, e-commerce and much more.
There is a paradigm shift occurring in how we live and do business and it is being driven by visual technologies. Recent advances in visual sensors, computer vision, deep learning, and artificial intelligence are powering a new wave of innovation.
These technologies capture, analyze, filter, display or distribute visual data for businesses and consumers. Visual data ranges from images, videos, thermal, radar, LIDAR, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, 2D, 3D, 6D and more.
The majority of visual data captured will only be seen by computers, not humans.
Our 6th annual LDV Vision Summit is fast approaching in NYC which highlights experts building visual technologies across themes that we are most excited about these days such as healthcare, synthetic media, nanophotonics, logistics and agriculture.
In advance of our Summit, we asked top venture capitalists to share their insights on investment opportunities and which sectors will be the most disrupted and empowered by visual technologies. They have either spoken at our event in the past or are speaking this year.
Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures, Partner
“Vision makes the world accessible, navigable and manipulable. As humans, we tend to take vision for granted, unless we suffer from an impairment. Computer vision is essential if we want machines to assist us broadly in the real world. We have backed Clarifai, the leading independent computer vision API (meaning not owned or controlled by one of the technology giants), for that reason. Clarifai gives every developer access to state of the art computer vision from the cloud to the edge.” Listen to more insights from Albert in a fireside chat with Evan in 2017.
Howard Morgan, B Capital Group, Chairman & First Round Capital, Co-Founder
“Over the next decade, visual technology will be used in many industries. One of the most disruptive sectors will be in precision agriculture, where vision will be used on all scales. At the macro level, satellite and drone imagery will pinpoint areas of disease of weak growth. At the micro level, vision systems will be used at the seed and plant level during the planting season – to ensure just one seed is dropped in each hole, at treatment points, to put exactly the right nutrients on each individual plant, and at harvest, to count and measure the plants that resulted from each seed.
I have invested in Nanotronics which is used high-resolution vision systems for inspection and process improvement in many chip related manufacturing processes. It has had great success in keeping baddies from being used – whether in computing or biotech.
I am also excited about autonomous vehicles, and not just automobiles. Boats, airplanes and even low-end scooters will use vision and AI to become a key part of our transportation systems.” Hear more from Howard in a panel discussion on Applications of Computer Vision & AI Will be Life Transformative moderated by Jessi Hempel, Senior Editor at Large at Linkedin, Liza Benson, Partner at Moderne Ventures and Alex Iskold, Managing Partner at 2048 Ventures.
Rachel Lam, Imagination Capital, Co-Founder & Managing Partner
“Wow, if you think back to 1996 when I was working at Time Warner, what a different world it was for the media industry and what “visual technology” meant back then.
Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting in 1996–a deal both Dick Parsons and I worked on–and that was for its innovative and cutting edge linear cable networks, CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. At the time, the new cable networks were disrupting the broadcast television industry, bringing the idea that programming could be tailored to specific audiences. And, the first VOD technology was developed by one of Time Warner’s portfolio companies, N2 Broadband, which brought “on demand” video programming to the consumer, which was the beginning of consumers being able to watch some of “what they wanted, when they wanted” (but not “where” they wanted as it was still tethered to the TV screen).
Today, the most interesting thing developing now is that visual technologies are now becoming intelligent with computer vision, and so now visual technologies go beyond entertainment/informational video products to now being the eyes of an intelligent computer so that visual technologies now enable new enterprise applications powered with AI and machine learning.” Read more in an interview with Rachel.
Zavain Dar, Lux Capital, Partner
“Visual technologies from self-driving cars to facial recognition for mobile security have undeniably arrived. Computer vision will deliver disruption in and around biotech. Any industry that has historically relied on humans for any sort of image analysis should be empowered and augmented with computer vision.
Technologically it’s no longer controversial to say computers can “see” across more data and per datum quantify a larger number on non-linear features and relationships. That is computers can both see more per image and see across more images, so it’s reasonable to assume any humans assessing images today will be augmented in the future. From a business perspective, this touches everything.
I candidly spend more time thinking about how we’ll integrate computer vision across the nuances and workflows of heterogeneous industries in ways that are sympathetic to problems unique to individual industries but productize across various industrious while retaining efficiency with scale” Read more in an interview with Zavain.
Matt Turck, FirstMark Capital, Partner
“The business sectors that will be most disrupted by computer vision will be medical imaging and transportation (cars, trucks). The latter will take a few more years, but will ultimately happen. The former is already underway, even though it has tiny industry penetration as of today. But there are so many other use cases beyond those: security, retail (self-service check-out), industrial (quality control), agriculture, advertising, sports, etc. Computer vision is an immensely fertile area for entrepreneurs and investors!
HyperScience is a really interesting one, not just because they’re a fast-growing company, but also because they have a less obvious use case: they use computer vision and image recognition technologies to automate back-office functions for Fortune 1000 companies and the government. They can automatically extract data from massive volumes of back-office documents like forms and invoices, with very impressive levels of accuracy.
I think we’re still early in the productization of deep learning. Google and Facebook have largely become deep-learning based, and are showing the way in terms of what’s possible. Certainly, a bunch of startups have appeared to build applications based on deep learning, but it’s just the beginning. Over the next few years, we’ll see deep learning deployed at scale across a much broader set of products and companies, beyond the big tech cos or the startup ecosystem.” Read more in an interview with Matt.
Rudina Seseri, Glasswing Ventures, Founder & Managing Partner
“I believe AI and vision will have a massive impact across sectors and industries which is why we decided to launch Glasswing Ventures. Within the enterprise, marketing and retail are likely to be one of the earliest adopters. In terms of sectors, it’s easy to see the impact that AI will have on e-commerce, transportation, healthcare diagnostics, security, etc. Image recognition has now moved from single object labeling to segment labeling and full scene transcription. Video has also seen impressive results.
An important next step will be to see how we can move from perception tasks like image recognition to autonomous decision making. The results achieved already in games, and self-driving cars are promising. One can think of applications in just about anything from autonomous vehicles, visual search, (visual) business intelligence, social media, visual diagnostics, entertainment, etc. However, I think the most important thing for success is to be able to match the type of data and algorithm to whichever problem you’re trying to solve. The ability to create valuable datasets in new use cases will be essential for startups.” Hear more during a panel discussion with Rudina, Jessi Hempel, Linkedin Senior Editor at Large and Rohit Makharia of GM Ventures.
Hadley Harris, Eniac, Founding Partner
“I consider the most interesting technological theme right now to be the way data and machine intelligence are changing every industry and our daily lives. A strong argument could be made that visual technology is the most important input to data+machine intelligence systems. By my count, 30% of the investments we’ve made over the last few years have a visual technology component.
For example, iSee is an autonomous transportation company that has developed a humanistic AI that is able to flourish in dynamic and unpredictable situations where other solutions fail. Obviously, they can only do that by leveraging CV as an input to understand the vehicle’s surroundings. Another one that is really interesting is Esports One. They use computer vision to understand what’s going on in esports matches and surface real-time stats and analytics to viewers. It’s like the first down marker on steroids.
Over the next 10 years, there are a number of trillion $ sectors we’re exploring at Eniac that will be disrupted by visual technology – food & agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transportation, logistics, defense but if I were to pick one it would be healthcare. We’re already seeing some really interesting use cases taking place in hospitals but that’s just the very tip of the iceberg. When these technologies move into the home so that individuals are being monitored on a daily basis the way we think about health and wellness with dramatic changes.” Read more in an interview with Hadley.
Nabeel Hyatt, Spark Capital, General Partner
“Visual is an amazing lens to think through the world right now. The advances in computer vision over the previous few years were one of the core reasons we believed it was finally the right time for autonomous driving when we led the Series A at Cruise. I have no doubt that technology is getting massively cheaper and will make its way into many consumer hardware products in the next few years. At the same time, we are always looking for new sensors, new visual data to evaluate the world around us, such as the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data that Capella Space is going to be providing very soon. That will be the first time a U.S.-based commercial company will offer that view of the world and can be massively enabling to the next generation of companies.
Spark has made pretty deep investments on all sides of VR, AR & MR. In Virtual Reality, we co-led the Series A at Oculus and I think their next product, the Quest, which comes out in May is the first consumer-ready VR product. I think it’s going to surprise some folks that had written off VR.
On the Augmented Reality side we are investors in Niantic, it’s actually one of our largest investments, as well as North, and Control Labs. When we invested in Niantic a lot of the belief in the future of that company is not just their games, but in their ambitions in augmented reality. They are a powerhouse here, and we are pumped they are finally beginning to talk about their ambitions.
But I’d say Augmented Reality is still a little further ways off, there are still some fundamental technical breakthroughs that are needed for it to be an every day or even regularly used product. Thankfully there are companies like North and CTRL-Labs that are really deep tech innovators who are making the breakthroughs necessary to bring AR to the masses.” Read more in an interview with Nabeel.
Om Malik, True Ventures, Partner
“The growing connectedness and increases usage of software technologies as part of the digitalization of our planet means that there is more data and more information that needs to be collected and synthesized. Computer vision (and related technologies) will be the most efficient way for the world to make sense of all this data. If I was to pick, medical processes would be the first and most impactful use of computer vision technologies, followed by factory/industrial productivity.” Hear more from a panel discussion with Om and Evan in 2014.
Our LDV Capital fund is the only venture fund with a thesis of investing in people building visual technology businesses across all sectors.
We invest extremely early in growing visual technology companies. We first invested in Clarifai when their team was only two people back in June 2014. We invested in the four co-founders of Mapillary in September 2014 when autonomous driving, and the maps that would be required for it, were still considered science fiction.
Visual assessment is critical to healthcare — whether that is a doctor peering down your throat as you say “ahhh” or an MRI of your brain. Over the next ten years, healthcare workflows will become mostly digitized, more personal data will be captured and computer vision, along with artificial intelligence, will automate the analysis of that data for precision care.
Deep learning with synthetic data will democratize the tech industry and empower other industries from entertainment, media production, and marketing.
Additional transformation will occur from visually tracking and analyzing food growing on the farms and then tracking across each step of shipping logistics until it gets to your mouth. The speed, safety and efficiency of agriculture, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics will benefit.
Nanophotonics is another space we are investing in. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize how a lot of visual data is captured. These visual technologies will solve problems, create significant value and hopefully improve our lives.
Computer vision expert and Professor of Computer Vision at Cornell Tech, Serge Belongie says “Right now I’m most excited about Augmented Reality technologies since they hold the promise of bringing powerful, contextually driven machine perception abilities to everyday users. While much of the press on AR focuses on entertainment and gaming, I see more potential impact in areas such as tele-assistance, e.g., getting remote expert assistance with home repairs, and assistive tech, e.g., helping low-vision individuals shop for groceries. When the hardware needed for these applications becomes lightweight, low cost, and hands-free, with long battery life, we’ll see a fundamental shift in how we interact with the visual world around us.” Hear more from Serge on a panel discussion on Delivering AR Beyond Dancing Hotdogs.
This is an incredibly exciting time for visual technologies. We are at the beginning of a massively powerful trend where visual technologies are being deployed to improve our health, food, transport, and so much more. These top tier venture capitalists are optimistic about visual technologies and the potential to create tremendous value for investors, businesses, and society.
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Author: Evan Nisselson
Evan Nisselson is General Partner of LDV Capital. LDV Capital is a thesis-driven early stage venture fund investing in people building visual technology businesses that leverage computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to analyze visual data. Annual LDV Vision Summit May 22 & 23 in NYC is the premier global gathering in visual technologies.