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Horizon Robotics Eyes ADAS

April 23, 2019

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Argus was the ancient Greek god with a hundred all-seeing eyes, but he’s eclipsed by the stare of today’s ubiquitous security cameras. Problem is, there aren’t enough people to monitor what those millions of cameras can see. Solution: smart cameras that can recognize faces, objects, and unusual activity before summoning an operator. The same technology allows vehicles to drive themselves with little or no human control.

One rising contender in this field is Horizon Robotics, a four-year-old Chinese startup that recently closed a massive $600 million funding round from an impressive list of investors. In total, it has raised $700 million—the largest sum of any current semiconductor startup and among the most ever raised by a chip company. So far, Horizon has produced two smart-vision processors, a smart camera, and a single-board camera platform for smart vehicles. Customers on three continents are using its products, and next-generation designs are under development.

The company’s Journey 1.0 processor employs a proprietary machine-learning (ML) subsystem to find faces and other objects in video streams. The “attention engine” (an object-segmentation unit) locates preprogrammed targets in a larger field, creating the bounding boxes often seen in sample images. Next, the “cognition engine” performs the object recognition—perhaps matching faces with passport photos. Horizon says these engines can identify up to 200 objects per video frame with less than 30 milliseconds’ latency per frame.

Horizon competes with several other vendors of AI accelerators and vision processors, including fellow startups and established semiconductor companies. By shipping products since last year, it has a head start on some competitors. It also has deep pockets, diverse financial backers, experienced engineering talent, and design wins in a vital market—China, the world’s largest surveillance state. In addition, the company attracted attention by winning an Innovation Award at January’s Consumer Electronics Show. These advantages give it an edge over most rivals.

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