$73m deal creates European automotive AI juggernaut
Swedish sensor specialist Smart Eye has bought US AI company Affectiva for $73.5m to create a major player for automotive AI systems.
Smart Eye in Gothenberg has over two decades of experience building AI-based eye tracking and delivering automotive-grade Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS), and includes Volvo and NASA as customers. It has 84 production contracts with 12 of the 20 largest global car makers and it is planning to open an office in Germany to support existing European car customers that include BMW and Audi.
Affectiva was spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009 based on AI that can detect human emotions. It has expanded its technology to in-cabin sensing, using machine learning and computer vision to determine what is happening in a vehicle.
Rather than continuing as competitors in the automotive market, the companies are joining forces, they say. The combination will improve automotive safety and ‘provide differentiated mobility experiences that enhance wellness, comfort and entertainment’.
“As we watched the DMS category evolve into Interior Sensing, monitoring the whole cabin, we quickly recognized Affectiva as a major player to watch,” said Martin Krantz, Founder and CEO of Smart Eye (above, right). “Affectiva’s pioneering work in establishing the field of Emotion AI has served as a powerful platform for bringing this technology to market at scale. At the end of the day, this is about saving lives and bridging the gap between humans and machines. In the future, looking back at this moment in time, I am convinced that this is a decisive moment for road safety thanks to the announcement that we have made today.”
Affectiva brings significant incremental revenues and profit from its Media Analytics business. The technology is used by 70 percent of the world’s largest advertisers to analyze consumer reactions to brand content and experiences. This will work with Smart Eye’s high-fidelity eye tracking systems for human factors research.
“We are thrilled to be merging with Smart Eye as the next step in Affectiva’s journey. This is a unique and exciting opportunity for us to join Smart Eye in bringing to market advanced AI with more comprehensive capabilities than either of us could provide alone,” said Dr. Rana el Kaliouby, Co-Founder and CEO of Affectiva, (above left) who will be Deputy CEO of Smart Eye when the deal closes at the end of June 2021
. “Not only are our technologies very complementary, so are our values, our teams, our culture, and perhaps most importantly, our vision for the future. We share a conviction that the AI we are building now will one day become ubiquitous. It will be built into the fabric of the technologies we use in our daily lives and will forever change the way we interact with technology and each other in a digital world.”
Affectiva’s Boston office gives Smart Eye an office on the US East coast, alongside the Smart Eye office in Detroit to service car makers including General Motors. The deal also brings Affectiva’s Cairo office for highly skilled local talent.
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