Jerusalem-based OrCam Technologies Ltd., a startup that has developed devices to assist the blind and visually impaired by using smart algorithms and a camera, said it has raised $30.4 million in its most recent funding round led by Israeli institutional investors Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings Ltd. and Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd. The company said the funding round values the firm at $1 billion, pre-investment.
The latest investment will fuel the company’s R&D efforts, and continue to intensify innovation of the company’s “breakthrough technology” said Ziv Aviram, OrCam co-founder, president and CEO, in a statement.
The startup was founded in 2010 by Amnon Shashua and Aviram, who are also the founders of auto technology firm Mobileye, which was sold to Intel Corp. last year for a whopping $15 billion.
The OrCam MyEye 2.0, the latest version of the product, helps the visually impaired navigate the world with a low-cost device and without invasive procedures. Its software uses a high-resolution video camera and smart algorithms that analyze what the camera is seeing, whether faces or text or objects, and reads back the information to a user in real time.
The product is basically a little camera with a mount attached to a computing device — the size of a smartphone that fits in a pocket — and a personal speaker. The OrCam camera is attached to the frame of a pair of glasses via a magnet, and when the user points to a text or surface, the speaker transforms the image into words and reads them aloud, thus enabling users to “read” newspapers, restaurant menus, or books. The database recognizes words and text from any surface and remembers faces too.
The product is the only wearable artificial vision device that is activated by a pointing gesture or simply by following the wearer’s gaze – allowing for hands-free use without the need of a smartphone or Wi-Fi, the company said.
The majority of existing investors in OrCam have also opted to participate in the latest investment funding round, the company said.
“We will continue to intensify innovation of our breakthrough artificial vision technology – thereby directly impacting the quality of life of our current and future users around the world,” said Aviram in the statement released late Monday.