Cambridge, U.K.-based startup Spectral Edge has closed a $5.3M Series A funding round from existing investors Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital.
The team, which in 2014 spun the business out of academic research at the University of East Anglia, has developed a mathematical technique for improving photographic imagery in real-time, also using machine learning technology.
As we’ve reported previously, their technology — which can be embedded in software or in silicon — is designed to enhance pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Mooted use cases include for enhancing low light smartphone images, improving security camera footage or even for drone cameras.
This month Spectral Edge announced its first customer, IT services provider NTT data, which said it would be incorporating the technology into its broadcast infrastructure offering — to offer its customers an “HDR-like experience”, via improved image quality, without the need for them to upgrade their hardware.
“We are in advanced trials with a number of global tech companies — household names — and hope to be able to announce more deals later this year,” CEO Rhodri Thomas tells us, adding that he expects 2-3 more deals in the broadcast space to follow “soon”, and enhance viewing experiences “in a variety of ways”.
On the smartphone front, Thomas says the company is waiting for consumer hardware to catch up — noting that RGB-IR sensors “haven’t yet begun to deploy on smartphones on a great scale”.
Once the smartphone hardware is there he reckons its technology will be able to help with various issues such as white balancing and bokeh processing.
“Right now there is no real solution for white balancing across the whole image [on smartphones] — so you’ll get areas of the image with excessive blues or yellows, perhaps, because the balance is out — but our tech allows this to be solved elegantly and with great results,” he suggests. “We also can support bokeh processing by eliminating artifacts that are common in these images.”
The new funding is going towards ramping up Spectral Edge’s efforts to commercialize its tech, including by growing the R&D team to 12 — with hires planned for specialists in image processing, machine learning and embedded software development.
The startup will also focus on developing real-world apps for smartphones, webcams and security applications alongside its existing products for the TV & display industries.
“The company is already very IP strong, with 10 patent families in the world (some granted, some filed and a couple about to be filed),” says Thomas. “The focus now is productizing and commercializing.”
“In a year, I expect our technology to be launched or launching on major flagship [smartphone] devices,” he adds. “We also believe that by then our CVD (color vision deficiency) product, Eyeteq, is helping millions of people suffering from color blindness to enjoy significantly better video experiences.”