Changing the way we see images

| John Davis

Category: Tech & innovation

Which high-growth UK businesses are changing the way we use and access images?

We live in an undeniably visual age. From Instagram and Snapchat to the ubiquitous selfie, photos have become a currency of the modern world.

At Beauhurst, we’re seeing companies bring tremendous innovation to the way we consume, interact and produce images, from machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, to image recognition, augmented reality and powerful photo-based search, organisation and matching.

Twitter’s recent acquisition of the excelpony_image.pnglently-named Magic Pony Technology shows how serious the big players are about this new cohort. Magic Pony uses machine learning to enhance images, including anything from a poor quality snap, to pixelated video, or recreating images based on other inputs, like similar images. The example on the right shows even complex images created from scratch – in this case, a distressed brick wall.

Magic Pony’s rise has been nothing short of astonishing. They received £1.25m in May 2015 – an unannounced transaction unearthed by Beauhurst’s Research team, valuing the young business at just shy of £2.5m. In April 2016, our researchers again uncovered unannounced investment – this time just over £3m, with a valuation of £16.7m. Twitter’s acquisition, for $150m (£102m), completes a truly remarkable trajectory for the business.

So what about some of the earlier-stage businesses which are using similar techniques? Beauhurst tracks a huge range of these companies, putting these technologies to use in everything from business intelligence and marketing to consumer fashion, and even art.

Snap_Fashion.pngSnap Fashion is using image recognition to search for products based on a consumer’s own photos., In their own words, they make “inspiration Snappable and shoppable”.

Time Inc. (parent company of Time Magazine) saw the potential and invested £2 million in the young business, valuing it at just over £7.5 million in August 2015.

cortexica.pngCortexica are a similar player, developing technology in image recognition and search that supposedly mimics human brains’ visual cortex, with accuracy of around 95%. A spin-out from the Bioengineering Department of Imperial College, the Venture-stage business has received £4.13m in funding, including a £2.3m loan in March 2015.

blippar.pngBlippar – who we have written on previously, are another business providing innovative image recognition and search. They describe themselves as “the world’s first visual discovery browser using augmented reality, artificial intelligence and computer vision technology.” Classified at Growth-stage by our Research team, the company’s most recent fundraising of $54m valued it at £232m, and is firmly in our “ones to watch” as a high-growth, innovative tech company.