California-based Phiar (pronounced “fire”), an augmented reality startup that has developed navigation systems for mobile devices, announced it has raised $3 million in seed funding. The company is planning to launch its product on mobile apps stores in the middle of next year. What makes Phiar unique is that it displays the real-world surroundings for the driver augmented with easy-to-follow painted path. Traditional GPS apps require you to look away from the road.
This round of funding was co-led by Venture Reality Fund and Norwest Venture Partners. Anorak Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Zeno Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, GFR Fund, Y Combinator, Innolinks Ventures, and Half Court Ventures also participated in this round.
Phiar was founded by computer vision researcher Dr. Chen-Ping Yu and deep learning expert Ivy Li. The company launched at the Y Combinator startup accelerator in early 2018.
The founding team have software optimization, deep learning, 3D reconstruction, and augmented reality design backgrounds as they worked at companies like Microsoft, Apple, Shutterstock, and VMWare. Dr. Yu was also a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University before starting Phiar.
“The idea came after taking too many wrong turns on the streets of Boston,” said Dr. Yu in a statement. “What we’re building is going to help people get to their destination faster and safer.”
Li explained out that the company wants users to keep their eyes on the road and look at the real world rather than looking at a 2D rendering of it. “What makes the experience so unique is the live AR path overlays, made possible by our super-efficient computer vision and deep learning AI that runs on your smartphone. This augments your surroundings rather than distracting you from them,” Li added.
Scott Beechuk of Norwest Venture Partners said that Phiar’s platform is also robust enough to support self-driving cars and will change the way people perceive and navigate the world. And VR Fund General Partner Marco DeMiroz said that Phiar’s breakthrough deep learning and AR navigation technology sets an example of the kind of incredible potential at the nexus of AI and AR.