Phiar (pronounced “fire”), leading machine learning and augmented reality innovator, announced a seed funding round of $3 million to develop a computer vision and deep learning navigation app for smartphones, to launch in mobile app stores in mid-2019. Unlike traditional GPS apps in which users look away from the road to decipher instructions, the Phiar app displays a driver’s real-world surroundings augmented with an easy to follow painted path.
Co-led by the Venture Reality Fund and Norwest Venture Partners, the seed round has participation from Anorak Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Zeno Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, GFR Fund, Y Combinator, Innolinks Ventures and Half Court Ventures.
Founded by computer vision researcher Dr. Chen-Ping Yu and deep learning expert Ivy Li, the Silicon Valley-based company launched at Y Combinator in early 2018. The founding team brings backgrounds in software optimization, deep learning, 3D reconstruction and AR design from Microsoft, Apple, Shutterstock and VMWare.
“The idea came after taking too many wrong turns on the streets of Boston,” says Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Chen-Ping Yu, who was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University before Phiar. “What we’re building is going to help people get to their destination faster and safer.”
“We want our users to keep their eyes on the road, looking at the real world rather than a 2D rendering of it,” says Ivy Li, Phiar Co-founder and CTO. “What makes the experience so unique is the live AR path overlays, made possible by our super-efficient computer vision and deep learning AI that runs on your smartphone. This augments your surroundings rather than distracting you from them.”
“AI-driven immersive and spatial technologies are becoming mainstream,” says Marco DeMiroz, General Partner of the VR Fund. “Phiar’s breakthrough deep learning technology and AR navigation app provides not just value to users, but also sets an example of the kind of incredible potential at the nexus of AI and AR.”
“Phiar’s platform is robust enough to support self-driving cars but lightweight enough to run on a smartphone,” says Scott Beechuk, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners. “The experience is going to change the way people perceive, navigate and enjoy the world.”