The news: Retrocausal raised $3.4 million to advance its AI-powered platform to help manufacturers train employees and avoid mistakes. The company participated in the Techstars Seattle accelerator class in 2020.
The tech: The Seattle startup’s computer vision technology can analyze complex manual steps, offer alerts when mistakes happen, and measure the amount of time spent on each step in a manufacturing process. Its Pathfinder Platform also compiles statistics from employee workstations and pulls them into an analytics dashboard.
The founders: CEO Zeeshan Zia was previously a deep learning and computer vision scientist at Microsoft, where he worked on HoloLens, the company’s mixed reality smart glasses. He co-founded Retrocausal in 2019 with two other engineers, Quoc-Huy Tran, Retrocausal’s CTO, and Andrey Konin, its chief architect. “Retrocausal was founded to empower low-skilled front-line workers to take on increasingly higher-skilled work through intelligence augmentation,” Zia told GeekWire.
The traction: The company has about 25 customers and has recently partnered with the Honda Xcelerator program on a project to improve manufacturing quality and with Siemens Digital Industries Software. Retrocausal also recently completed a pilot project with NASA through its Small Business Technology Transfer Program to build a system that could work as an “extra pair of eyes” to assist with medical procedures or other operations.
The workers: Monitoring and digitizing the workplace may sound like it could affect employee mental health, but Zia said that the platform instead enables people to take on more diverse, interesting work by improving feedback and training. In addition, the company has developed tools to anonymize data, for instance blurring out faces. “We have received very positive feedback from workers,” said Zia.
The competitors: They include machine vision companies such as Instrumental and Cognex, which aim to improve industrial processes, as well as augmented reality companies like PTC’s Vuforia, and LightGuide, which projects virtual instructions on to an employee’s work surface. Microsoft’s HoloLens has manufacturing uses and is also a competitor, said Zia.
The backers: The funding round was led by Glasswing Ventures and Differential Ventures, and included new investors Argon Ventures, Ascend Ventures Vietnam, and Hypertherm Ventures. The round brings the company’s funding to date to $4.5 million.
What’s next: The new funding will help the team move the product from a “descriptive” to a “predictive,” platform, said Zia. The company’s work “is moving us in the direction of autonomously simulating and proposing improvements to industrial processes,” he said. Retrocausal has 24 employees and expects to increase to 35 by the end of the year.