Company wins $100,000 in Luminate competition
Chosen from 126 applicants representing 22 countries, OWL AI was named the winner of $100,000 in the Luminate NY startup competition. The goal will be to advance its patented thermal imaging technology with the funding.
OWL AI works in a simple way. To ensure that drivers are aware of their surroundings, OWL AI’s patented thermal sensor modality can detect and classify objects around a car during the day or at night. The product, which uses 3D thermal ranging, helps a driver to choose the safest path based on information provided.
When asked what his company does best, president and CEO Chuck Gershman said, “we save lives.” Part of Venture Creations at Rochester Institute for Technology (RIT) since July, 2020, the company was formally launched in 2018.
The new sensor modality, which is patented, is being marketed as the world’s only monocular 3D thermal ranging solution. This high precision sensor can detect pedestrians, other vehicles and animals surrounding a car. Plus, the system can also calculate direction and speed of the vehicle. This represents an significant improvement in resolution over other types of sensors.
“We have found that current automotive sensors, in degraded visual environments like smoke, fog, glare or snow, have been found to be ineffective,” said Gershman. “OWL has developed a sensor that tackles this problem by increasing the probability for safe driving through all these conditions.”
In 2019, six thousand pedestrians were killed at night in the United States. Yet OWL AI is the only company to create a system that works at night.
By early 2020, Gershman and and Chief Technology Officer Gene Petilli had developed a fundraising strategy to raise outside investments. The first investment the team received was from a former CEO who is well known in the world of technology. Essentially, as the company began, there were changes. As Gershman said, “you invest in people, not in the business plan.”
According to Gershman, nearly every automotive equipment manufacturer is talking with OWL about how to add high-definition 3D thermal imaging to their solutions. As the company tagline states, this technology is “the smartest solution for the road ahead.” For more information, go to the OWL website.
Luminate NY is the world’s largest accelerator program for optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI) startups, and is also instrumental in helping early-stage startups gain clear competitive advantages with the funds necessary to further their technological advancements. Administered by NextCorps, Luminate NY is funded by Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Luminate has invested $7.15 million in 30 startups and these companies, in turn, have raised $26 million and collectively share a net worth of $160 million.