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LOS ALTOS, Calif. — In the past week, Toyota AI Ventures LLC has invested in two Israeli startups, Cartica Ltd. and Moodify, as it continues its support of innovative technologies around mobility.

Cartica AI is a spinoff of computer vision company Cortica Inc. and is developing a perception system for autonomous vehicles that combines sensors, processors, and its proprietary object-classification software. Toyota AI Ventures joined Continental AG, BMW iVentures, and OurCrowd Ltd. in Cartica’s Series B round. No amount was specified, and the companies plan to help with distribution.

A bit more “out of the box” was Toyota‘s participation in the $1.6 million seed round for Moodify, which is creating technology that uses scent to affect people’s moods. It joined lead Next Gear Ventures in the investment, which is intended to assist human drivers. It is also part of broader efforts to enhance the in-car experience in anticipation of autonomous vehicles freeing people’s attention from driving.

In May, Toyota AI Ventures launched its second $100 million fund for robotics and autonomous mobility startups.

Cartica AI offers perception with unsupervised learning

Cartica’s technology has more than 200 patents, and its “autonomous AI” is based on biological models and uses “signature-based representation structures coupled with unsupervised learning methodologies.” It is intended to identify and classify visual data as a vehicle moves. The company also claimed it can provide robust perception in all weather conditions and support predictive artificial intelligence, localization and mapping, and vehicle data sharing.

“It promises a number of advantages over existing deep-learning approaches, like greater contextual understanding, lower computing power requirements, and not needing massive training data sets,” wrote Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, in a blog post. “It’s the type of disruptive technology we look for at Toyota AI Ventures, and I’m excited to welcome Cartica AI to our portfolio.”

Cartica has raised $70 million to date, and it plans to use the funding to launch its platform. Its first product is the Cartex 1.0 open developer kit, which runs on the Renesas V3H rCar system on a chip (SOC). The kit enables Cartica’s perception algorithms to be integrated into advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as automatic braking, cruise control, and traffic navigation.

“Our goal is to introduce a novel, yet proven, AI approach to the automotive industry, which will pave the way for a safer and more autonomous transportation,” stated Cartica co-founder and CEO Igal Raichelgauz. “Our strategy is to build strong partnerships with leading automotive players in order to bring our solution to the high-volume automotive marketplace by the end of next year.”

Moodify to help motorists with custom odors

Tel Aviv, Israel-based Moodify said its “advanced functional scents” could help motorists by reducing stress, masking bad odors, or waking up drowsy drivers.

The company was founded in 2017 by Yigal Sharon and Dr. Yaniv Mama, and it is based on more than a decade of research at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“From flying air taxis and software that helps cars predict human behavior, to autonomous security robots and last-mile delivery services, we look for companies with novel technologies and business models that deliver real value to customers,” wrote Adler. “It takes a lot of screening (close to 2,000 startups at this point) in search of that special alchemy of talent, tech, and market opportunity. So, it’s always a thrill when we meet a team like Moodify that’s breaking new ground.”

Moodify plans to exhibit its first product, Moody White, at the International Automobile Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, from today through Sept. 22, 2019. It will be demonstrating it in the booth of French automotive supplier Valeo.

The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration will be open soon.

Source: The Robot Report