Northern Ireland firm receives $1m boost

Northern Ireland firm receives $1m boost

Belfast tech company, Liopa, has won $1m in funding for commercialising its lip-reading technology

Northern Ireland firm, Liopa Ltd.’s lip-reading technology has won $1m in funding to bring a new platform for visual speech recognition to the market. This will take the Belfast tech company’s lip-reading technology to the next level and enable it to commercialise the LipRead platform and actively market it for global use.

The firm’s current funding boost is led by Techstart NI and QUBIS – its initial backers.

LipRead uses the camera on a smartphone or tablet to analyse lip movement and decipher words and phrases.

Liopa’s latest investors include the AI Seed Fund, which supports start-ups which use artificial intelligence to create technology.

The funding round was also supported by Co-Fund NI, which is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers.

LipRead’s intends to improve the accuracy of Siri and Alexa – the commonly used voice-driven assistants – in noisy environments such as cars, offices and factories.

The technology is the result of a decade of research by Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT). It also won a cash prize in InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn competition two years ago.

Liopa is led by entrepreneurs Liam McQuillan, the co-founder of AePONA, and Richard McConnell, who have been involved in a number of tech start-ups. Other team members behind LipRead include visual speech recognition and computer vision experts Dr. Darryl Stewart and Dr. Fabian Campbell-West.

Liam McQuillan explained that voice is forecast to overtake the keyboard and mouse as the primary means of interacting with mobile and computing applications. The big stumbling block however is the accuracy of current voice technologies in real world environments — commands get misinterpreted frequently due to background noise. LipRead will augment current technologies and provide this much-needed accuracy, thus ensuring the success of the ‘Voice UI’.

The multi-lingual lip-reading technology can also be used as an aid for the hard of hearing via automated subtitling, and preventing authentication fraud.

Hal Wilson of Techstart NI added that Liopa brings together great technology, a strong team and an exciting market opportunity. This latest funding round marks a significant step forward.

John Spindler, general partner at AI Seed, said Liopa is a great example of a team with a pedigree of research tackling challenges in visual speech recognition using the latest advances in machine learning.

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