Japanese giant SoftBank to buy AI Chips from Israel’s Inuitive

Each chip costs around $10 – leading to estimated revenue of tens of millions of dollars.

December 5, 2017 19:55
2 minute read.
Japanese giant SoftBank to buy AI Chips from Israel’s Inuitive

Israeli start-up Inuitive signed a multi-million dollar deal with Japanese investment giant SoftBank to produce millions of semiconductor chips for robots. Pictured above is its virtual reality sensor.. (photo credit: INUITIVE/ASAF RONEN)


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Israeli start-up Inuitive, which manufactures semiconductor chips used in artificial intelligence, announced a multimillion-dollar agreement with Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. on Tuesday.

The Tokyo-based telecom giant is set to purchase millions of Inuitive’s six-millimeter chips for use in robotics and the “Internet of Things” – digitally connected household items. The chips costs around $10 each – generating estimated revenue in the tens of millions of dollars – and can be used for 3D-imaging, computer vision and deep learning.

Inuitive wants robots to behave like humans and perform jobs held by people, which requires navigating indoors. The company maps out and reconstructs inside positioning, which currently lacks GPS capabilities, by using a camera to create a 3D model of the environment.

“We are trying to imitate the human brain,” Inuitive CEO Shlomo Gadot told The Jerusalem Post, modeling the chip after our visual learning patterns. “Fifty percent of the time, the human brain is busy analyzing the picture with our eyes – what we see. In a new place, you’re scanning the environment so you can move… We’re taking two cameras and creating a 3D image.”

The company’s chip also uses a gyroscope – a sensing device used to measure the orientation of an object – especially useful for robots.

Based in Ra’anana, Inuitive is completing a $30 million to $35m. financing round, according to sources in the company. Investments are pouring into artificial intelligence (AI) because of its potential to transform the world.

“It’s going to be the next revolution in the world – augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence. The CEO of Google says that the last 10 years was the revolution of the smartphone and the next 10 years will be the revolution of AI. The machine will replace many things that people are doing.”

Earlier in 2017, SoftBank launched a $100-billion tech fund that will invest in global start-ups and hi-tech. Its main partner is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund; the SoftBank fund dwarfs all other previous investment vehicles.

“The amount of money from outside... is the key for the success of Israeli industry,” Gadot said, referring to local developments in software, artificial intelligence and computer vision. “There are several places in the world, like China, that know how to appreciate Israeli innovation and are happy to invest here.”

Already in China, robots are supplementing nurses’ tasks in hospitals. And in Japan, robots are replacing caretakers to provide home services for elderly people.

Regarding concerns that automation would replace peoples’ jobs, Gadot said that the chip technology would increase efficiency, allowing people to fulfill other tasks and expand the economy. With American automakers, increased robotic use has counter-intuitively led to more jobs in the past five years.

The chips are designed in Israel and manufactured in Taiwan. Gadot and his partner Dor Zepeniuk founded the company in 2012, which employs 85 people. Inuitive has raised some $70 million to date, including from Ruth Wertheimer’s “7 Main” family office and the investment arms of T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom.

Gadot also founded Modem-Art, which produces a processor for 3G mobile devices. The company was sold to Agere Systems for $145 million in 2005. He previously sold Presello, a semiconductor startup, to Broadcom for $100 million in 2010.

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