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Intel Snaps Up Itseez to Help Cars See Better

Tesla Introduces Self-Driving Features With Software UpgradeTesla Introduces Self-Driving Features With Software Upgrade
Automakers have been heavily pursuing the technology.Photograph by Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chip maker Intel, in its bid to expand from its core PC and server business to all manner of devices, is buying Itseez, a machine vision specialist co-founded by two former Intel techies.

As you might guess, machine vision, sometimes known as computer vision, lets computers see and understand their surroundings. The technology is used in robotics, autonomous vehicles, and in a number of security applications. Facial recognition, one form of machine-vision, for example could let you use a face scan to withdraw money from an ATM.

San Francisco-based Itseez builds algorithms that help automobiles “see” obstacles and avoid collisions. The company’s driver assistance system can detect when a car drifts from its lane or warn about pedestrians crossing the road.

That class of technology is now used in some high-end cars and will become more critical as more self-driving vehicles hit the streets.

The company’s other products include Facense facial recognition technology. On the consumer side, Itseez3D is an iOS app that turns your iPad or iPhone into a 3D scanner but that will remain a separate company

News of Intel’s acquisition was posted Thursday in a blog, by Doug Davis, the senior vice president heading up Intel’s (INTC) strategic Internet of things push. Terms were not disclosed.

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Itseez, Davis wrote, will be a key part of Intel’s Internet of things strategy and will help with autonomous driving, digital security and surveillance, and industrial inspection applications. In the Internet of things, billions of devices like Fitbit (FIT) health trackers, home appliances, and industrial machinery are equipped with technology that gather information and typically send it somewhere else to be analyzed.

That enables a whole scenario of remote diagnostics and other applications. For example, your refrigerator could alert you when milk is running low, although some of the predicted uses seem like overkill to many consumers. But it might be useful to hear from auto makers or dealers that your car needs a checkup, so you can eliminate wasted trips to the mechanic.

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Itseez was co-founded by Victor Erukhimov and Sergey Molinov, both former Intel hands, who are now president and chief financial officer, respectively.

As noted, there are some interesting security applications around machine vision and facial recognition in particular, although the burgeoning use of facial recognition to identify people by their on-screen images by Facebook and other companies has sparked a furor among those who see it as a violation of privacy.

For more on self-driving cars, watch:

Still, don’t expect big tech vendors that have already built and bought machine vision arsenals to stop doing so. Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) all have big efforts going in this field.