Tangram Vision’s AI-powered 3D sensor could transform computer vision in robotics

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Tangram Vision, a startup building software and hardware for robotic perception, unveiled a new 3D depth sensor today called HiFi that packs powerful computer vision capabilities into an off-the-shelf product priced at $549.

The sensor aims to “make it dead simple to add AI-enhanced 3D data to robots,” Adam Rodnitzky, cofounder and COO of Tangram Vision, told VentureBeat.

HiFi combines high-resolution 3D sensing with AI processing power and computer vision algorithms built directly into the device.

This allows it to simplify challenging tasks like calibration, navigation and running neural networks that are critical for robotics applications but often require teams of specialized engineers to implement.

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“Traditionally, robotics has relied quite a lot on sensors,” said Rodnitzky. “But there’s actually a lot of not-so-fun stuff that comes with adding sensors to robotic platforms, like sensor calibration and maintenance. With HiFi, we’ve built all that complex software right into the device itself.”

The onboard neural processing unit powers AI models on HiFi, which enables out-of-the-box capabilities such as people detection, object classification, and scene segmentation. (Credit: Tangram Vision)

Accelerating robotics development

By handling these complex tasks onboard, HiFi allows even small teams to tap into sophisticated computer vision capabilities and speed up development of robotics products.

Tangram Vision is launching HiFi on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter for up to 50% off the $549 list price, aiming to get the sensor into the hands of a wide community of hackers, developers and robotics companies. The company previously used Kickstarter to launch an early 3D sensor prototype and cited the platform’s access to developers as a key reason for returning.

Disrupting the robotics vision market

An out-of-the-box solution like HiFi has the potential to significantly move the needle on adoption of computer vision capabilities and speed development cycles in robotics.

Many robotics companies rely heavily on some form of computer vision, but actually implementing and maintaining these systems can become an expensive undertaking.  According to a recent McKinsey report, the primary challenges to adoption include the capital cost of robots and a company’s general lack of experience with automation.

If Tangram Vision can deliver with HiFi, it could mean huge time and cost savings for any organization looking to integrate computer vision and AI into their robotic systems.

With a streamlined product designed squarely for the needs of robotic applications, the young startup seems poised to make waves in the red hot AI robotics space if it can deliver on its promises. But having launched only in 2020, Tangram Vision still has a lot to prove.

Run by robotics veterans

The company is led by experienced veterans with roots in computer vision and robotics, including time at early pioneer Occipital. Tangram Vision will need to leverage that experience as it faces off against much larger and more established sensor incumbents in the market. 

But its focus directly on the emerging niche of robotic vision represents a calculated bet that this space is ripe for disruption by applying the right software smarts.

“We think we’ve built something pretty special in HiFi,” said Rodnitzky. “We can’t wait to get it in the hands of as many roboticist and developers as possible to really see it shine.”

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