Irish chip firm Movidius could be the star of Google I/O

16 May 2016

Movidius founders David Maloney and Sean Mitchell

Chip technology developed by a Dublin-based start-up called Movidius is likely to be the enabling technology behind a raft of innovations revealed at Google’s tech shindig I/O this week (18-20 May), from Project Tango smartphones that can sense their environment to indoor mapping and autonomous drones.

Reports in the weekend ahead of I/O suggest that Alphabet-owned Google is planning to map the interior of buildings in 3D down to a resolution of just a few inches and plans entire revenue streams from virtual reality.

At the heart of this activity is Project Tango, Google’s multi-billion dollar bet on the future of smartphones. At the heart of Project Tango is a chip designed by an Irish tech company called Movidius.

Future Human

Project Tango is a concept for the future of smartphones, phones that will not only be modular but jam-packed with 3D sensors that can build and map the environment around them using 3D scanning.

Myriad possibilities for Movidius

The key to this breakthrough capability is Myriad, Movidius’s vision processor platform, which enables a range of devices to intelligently understand and contextualise their surroundings.

According to Bloomberg, Google is planning a massive expansion of Project Tango and ultimately wants to make it ubiquitous. Recent job postings and updates to Tango’s developer software bear testimony to this ambition.

Earlier this year, we reported how Movidius struck a lucrative deal with Google to bring its vision-processing technology to future smartphones.

Little did we realise at the time just how much of a roll Movidius was on. Within weeks, it emerged that, as well as smartphones, the deal with Google will also see the company’s chip technology feature in Google’s next generation of VR headsets.

In recent weeks, we reported how Movidius was also the brains behind the world’s first autonomous drone, the DJI Phantom 4, which can stick to and follow a subject and stay in a fixed position without the need for a GPS signal. Described as an industry first, the addition of Movidius chip technology and algorithms enables spatial computing and 3D depth sensing.

Movidius was also engaged in another first recently, the world’s first deep-learning USB stick, which can add artificial intelligence (AI) to future products from self-driving cars to robots, and drones that will learn to think for themselves.

Entitled the Fathom Neural Compute Stick, the device will sell for less than $100 and will allow powerful neural networks to be moved out of the cloud and deployed on new products like robots and drones.

Movidius, which was founded 10 years ago by David Moloney and Sean Mitchell, recently raised €38m in a move that will enable it to generate 100 new jobs in Dublin.

The company now has offices in Silicon Valley, Ireland, Romania and China.

As Google prepares to reveal its vision for the future of technology, if it has anything to do with VR and 3D-sensing smartphones and drones, you can be guaranteed that a technology born in Ireland is at the heart of it all.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years