Face Recognition Firm Kairos Acquires Irish Startup In Multimillion-Dollar Deal

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Kairos, a Miami-based leader in facial recognition technology, has announced a multimillion-dollar acquisition of EmotionReader, an Irish startup that uses algorithms to analyze facial expressions in video content.

The deal is part of Kairos founder Brian Brackeen’s mission to fix biases in today’s face recognition algorithms.

In face recognition, there’s a huge problem around diversity and the ability of algorithms to understand different colors, shades and genders, Brackeen told Moguldom at South By Southwest 2018.

It’s called algorithmic bias, and it has had tragic consequences for Black and people and people of color in the U.S., where 50 percent of the population has a photo in databases that may be available to law enforcement.

Brackeen announced on March 13 at SXSW that his company plans to produce a face recognition dataset with people that have been traditionally marginalized. He plans to make it freely available to the entire world, he said, “so that all of us can create better algorithms that reflect all humanity.”

If Kairos succeeds, it will be a world first, Brackeen said.

Kairos’ core business is focused on facial identification for enterprise clients. Knowing who someone is, paired with how they feel about your content, is a powerful tool for brands and marketers, Techcrunch reported.

As the Black CEO of a software company developing facial recognition services, Brackeen said he’s opposed to governments using facial recognition technology for law enforcement. He has a personal, cultural and social connection to the technology, Brackeen wrote in a Techcrunch article.

“For law enforcement systems relying on face recognition to identify suspects using mug shot databases — accuracy, particularly in the case of dark-skinned people, can mean the difference between disproportionate arrest rates and civil equality,” Brackeen wrote in a Kairos blog post.

Based in Limerick, Ireland, Emotion Reader uses algorithms to help brands and marketers measure viewers’ emotional response to videos. The startup helps analyze viewer response via an analytics dashboard, allowing clients to make different decisions about media spend based on viewer response.

Founded in 2017, EmotionReader was backed by Enterprise Ireland, one of Europe’s largest venture capital funds, according to a Kairos blog post. Its co-founders are Dr. Stephen Moore and Dr. Padraig O’Leary. Working from a base in Singapore, Moore built an impressive research and development team, according to Kairos.

As part of the multimillion-dollar deal executed this summer, Kairos says it plans to consolidate its research and development team into a new Singapore office led by Moore. This will allow the Miami-based Kairos to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific region’s artificial intelligence talent and give it a platform for an upcoming APAC expansion.

“In our mission to fix biases in today’s face recognition algorithms, we’re thrilled to welcome to Kairos some of the best deep learning talent in the world,” Brackeen said in a prepared statement.

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Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of Kairos. Photo: Anita Sanikop/Moguldom

With EmotionReader’s research team on board, Kairos said it hopes to push the limits of current face recognition systems to be more accurate in real-world conditions:

“Specifically, in optimizing the algorithms to work without bias on all races, ethnicities, genders, and ages of faces. And, as face recognition systems are adopted for new use cases, potential IP opportunities will be a focus to cement Kairos as a leader in this space, including diversity of algorithms, automatic learning faces template as faces change over time (e.g aging) plus offering anti-spoofing solutions for our customers.”

Kairos is a leader in the face recognition market, said Moore, Kairos’ newly appointed chief scientific officer.

The EmotionReader team plans to work with Kairos to make state-of-the-art face recognition accessible to all, Moore said. “EmotionReader’s technology is a perfect fit for the Kairos platform. I believe with recent advances in AI and deep learning we’re at a tipping point where AI will change the lives of millions of people for the better. Kairos is perfectly placed to make this a reality and do it in a socially responsible way to benefit all.”

Kairos supports Blockchain, “further democratizing the use of face recognition as a primary identity verification solution,” the company said in a blog post. However, with that comes with challenges of scale, “because having algorithms that identify only a percentage of the world’s population, in a world rapidly migrating to digital identity verification— is simply not good enough.”

Kairos has raised approximately $8 million, Techcrucnh reported. Investors include New World Angels, Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, Backstage Capital, Morgan Stanley, Caerus Ventures, and Florida Institute. Kairos is now closing on a $30 million crowd sale.

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face recognition Kairos

 


About Dana Sanchez

Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubai Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.