Where it's based: San Mateo, Calif.
When it was founded: 2005
Why it's Fierce: What if your smartphone camera could have the complexity and sophistication of the human eye, but also be able to process massive amounts of data? What could you do with a capability like that? Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Project Tango is trying to find out, and the search giant is partnering with hundreds of developers to figure out applications that use computational imagining and visual awareness. It could lead to people mapping the dimensions of a home simply by walking around with a phone before they go furniture shopping, or giving a visually impaired person step-by-step navigation in unfamiliar indoor places.
At the heart of Tango is a reference design smartphone that takes advantage of Movidius and the company's new type of processor, a Vision Processing Unit, or VPU. Movidius' Myriad 1 processor is a high-performance piece of silicon and also highly programmable, but critically it also works at very low power levels so that the massive amount of computation it enables does not drain a phone's battery. Movidius accomplishes this by keeping the data that is processed as local as possible and optimizing latency. For now it's unclear what Project Tango will produce, but Movidius CEO Remi El-Ouazzane said he thinks the mobile industry is just at the beginning of embracing computational imagining and visual awareness.
What's next: El-Ouazzane said he thinks computational photography, in which depth of field and other imaging capabilities associated with high-end DSLR cameras, will become mainstream in mobile in 2015--and Movidius wants to enable that. Immersive gaming is another key area of focus for the company, and El-Ouazzane said Tango could bring console-like gaming to Android. The company wants to make Myriad the main architecture for visual processing, and El-Ouazzane said he is open to working with other chipset companies to make that happen. However, he gave no indications on how such a partnership might work.
El-Ouazzane said the company's goal is to ensure that hardware OEMs and software partners can take advantage of the company's core architecture. Movidius is venture-backed and its investors include AIB Seed Capital Fund, Atlantic Bridge, Capital-E, DFJ Esprit and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.