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Five minutes with Rhys Newman, Co-Founder & CSO of Visionary Machines

April 28th 2022

Post created by The Oxford Trust to give insight into the science and tech businesses they support in their innovation centres: the Oxford Centre for Innovation and the Wood Centre for Innovation.

We spoke to Dr Rhys Newman, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, about Visionary Machines and the software they are developing to create superhuman vision for machines.

Rhys says “We want to enable machines to see – so they can navigate, measure distances, perceive objects and intelligently interact with the world around them. Our aim is revolutionise the spacial sensing market.”

Inspired by the impressive vision of birds and animals, Visionary Machine’s AI based software is called Pandion after the taxonomic genus of the Osprey. This hawk has supremely good vision, some of the best in the animal kingdom and better than humans, in order to catch its prey.

With over 50 combined years’ experience in computer vision technology, Rhys and his team of five are developing the Pandion software to link digital camera arrays to create full colour, high fidelity 6D stereo computer vision systems that operate in real time. The aim is for machines of all kinds to see and perceive the world better than humans.

“Existing solutions do not provide sufficient fidelity for a human or a machine to drive with them”, says Rhys. But by linking anything from 4 to 16 cameras, Rhys and his team are aiming to solve this problem and create low-cost visionary sensors that operate better than current alternatives, for example radar or Lidar.

Lidar (which stands for Light Detection and Ranging), remote sensing systems uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances. Typical Lidar units currently produce around 100,000 points per second but as Elon Musk says in connection with autonomous vehicles: “Anyone relying on LiDAR is doomed.”

Visionary Machines’ system, Pandion, is aiming to operate at an incredible 100 million points per second. But Pandion also has other advantages. “It’s low cost and simple to make as it uses off-the-shelf components. It is high fidelity, works in the night, rain, fog and is customizable for all sorts of machines”, says Rhys.

The company was formed by Rhys and Dr Samson Lee out of the Canon R&D Labs in Australia, where Rhys was the head of research until they closed in 2019. They set up down under but relocated to Oxford in 2020 to be close to the renowned University of Oxford Robotics Research Groups and a pool of local experts. They are joined by experienced entrepreneur and CEO Gary Aitchson.

Funded currently by VC investors in Australia, Visionary Machines is working on improving the prototype this year and developing use of Pandion for small volume, specific applications. The long-term aim is to develop a system that is small, fast and accurate enough to be used everywhere to create machines that are visionary!

For more information on Visionary Machines, see here.

To find out more about our innovation centre, follow the links for the Wood Centre for Innovation and its sister centre, the Oxford Centre for Innovation.

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