Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

CSE-Based Startup Receives Funding to Develop Systems Based on Intelligent Personal Assistant Technology

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Prof. Jason Mars

Prof. Lingjia Tang

Artificial Intelligence startup Clinc, founded by Profs. Jason Mars and Lingjia Tang along with Research Fellow Michael Laurenzano and CSE graduate student Johann Hauswald, is off and running in downtown Ann Arbor. On August 4, 2016, the company announced a $225,000 National Science Foundation Grant and closure of a $1.2 million round of seed funding.

Clinc has built Lucida, its state-of- the-art, open-source intelligent assistant and machine learning platform that allows developers and the open-source community to easily create and deploy personalized voice and vision-based intelligent assistants in applications beneficial to society – such as non-profit education and improving technological access for the disabled. The company will also focus on building scalable infrastructure to power the massive amounts of computation required to power deep learning intelligent assistant technologies.

The $225,000 National Science Foundation Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant will help Clinc strengthen and increase the intelligent capabilities of Lucida, its state-of-the-art, open-source intelligent assistant and machine learning research platform already used all over the world for both research and production systems. Lucida allows developers and the open-source community to easily create and deploy personalized voice and vision-based intelligent assistants in applications beneficial to society – such as non-profit education and improving technological access for the disabled. As part of the grant, the company will also focus on building scalable infrastructure to power the massive amounts of computation required to power deep learning intelligent assistant technologies.

The seed round, led by Ann Arbor-based eLab with participation from Chicago-based Hyde Park Venture Partners and Ann Arbor-based Cahoots Holdings, brings the company’s total investment to $1.45 million. The investment will enable Clinc to build upon its research in machine learning and to invest in the continued development of its deep learning platform and robust ecosystem of artificial intelligence (AI) engines. These advanced engines sit on top of Lucida and can be applied to a variety of industries. Clinc’s initial offering, set to debut this fall, is a customizable end-to-end intelligent assistant product aimed at tackling consumer needs in the fintech space.

"Transformative AI technologies can solve so many pressing societal problems," according to Prof. Mars. "This financial support allows us to make our system easily adaptable for people around the world. The funds also enable us to address the architectural limits of servers and data centers and to build the infrastructure to deploy our system at scale."

Unlike industry competitors and traditional AI systems that are limited to a set of rule-based user commands and canned answers, Clinc's intelligent platform utilizes the most advanced scientific discoveries in natural language processing to emulate human intelligence and communication. The platform understands any type of natural conversational language and is capable of answering increasingly complex questions with personalized, real-time, instant intelligence. Because Clinc's platform automatically learns naturally over time, it does not rely on continual coding to maintain and grow.


Posted: August 8, 2016