Belfast lip-reading tech start-up Liopa raises $1m

17 Apr 2018

From left: Richard McConnell and Liam McQuillan from Liopa with Hal Wilson of Techstart NI. Image: Liopa

Liopa to bring visual speech-recognition platform to market.

Belfast’s Liopa has raised $1m in funding led by Techstart NI and QUBIS to commercialise its LipRead platform for a global audience.

Its latest investors include AI Seed, which exclusively supports start-ups that harness artificial intelligence to create leading-edge tech solutions. The funding round was also supported by Co-Fund NI, which is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers.

Developed following 10 years of research by the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast, LipRead uses the camera on a smartphone or tablet to analyse lip movement and decipher words and phrases.

“Liopa is a great example of a team with a pedigree of research tackling challenges in visual speech recognition using the latest advances in machine learning,” said John Spindler, general partner at AI Seed.

Enter the era of the voice UI

LipRead’s primary function will be improving the accuracy of commonly used voice-driven assistants such as Siri, Cortana or Alexa and voice-activated applications in noisy environments such as vehicles, offices and factories.

“Voice is forecast to overtake the keyboard and mouse as the primary means of interacting with mobile and computing applications,” said co-founder and CEO Liam McQuillan.

“The big stumbling block, however, is the accuracy of current voice technologies in real-world environments – commands get misinterpreted frequently due to background noise.

“LipRead will augment current technologies and provide this much-needed accuracy, thus ensuring the success of the ‘voice UI’.

Co-Fund NI and Techstart NI were established by Invest NI as part of its Access to Finance strategy and are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

“Liopa brings together great technology, a strong team and an exciting market opportunity,” said Hal Wilson of Techstart NI.

“This latest funding round marks a significant step forward and will support the team’s plans to bring the LipRead technology to market.”

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