Belfast AI Startup Liopa Raises Seed funding on the Syndicate Room crowdfunding platform

A spin-out from Queen’s University Belfast and the Centre for Secure IT, Liopa is developing lipreading technology to enable visual speech recognition. 

AI-based technology startup Liopa has completed a very successful fund-raising campaign on the SyndicateRoom crowdfunding website. The company raised 2.5 times the target amount in a 4 week period. It received strong backing from a number of angel investors and the Fund Twenty8 EIS fund. 

Founded in 2015, Liopa is commercialising over 10 years of research in the field of Speech and Image processing. The company’s technology can determine speech by analysing the movement of a user’s lips as they speak into a camera. In addition, the technology can be used to prevent “spoofing” and security issues in facial recognition systems. 

Liopa’s primary focus is improving the accuracy of voice driven applications which have risen in popularity. Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have brought voice interaction into the mainstream. And now corporations such as Google and Sonos are following their lead. These voice driven systems, however, rely on audio speech recognition (ASR) to determine speech. This means their accuracy deteriorates with the increase of real-world audio noise – for example, in a busy restaurant or outside on a windy day. 

Liopa’s visual speech recognition technology, LipRead, is designed to decipher speech from lip movements. It is therefore agnostic to audio noise. Liopa hopes to augment existing voice driven systems in real-world environments, improving accuracy when background noise is present. The company calls this usage of LipRead “ASR-Assist”. 

Speaking about the funding round, Liopa’s CEO Liam McQuillan said: “This investment will allow us to grow our engineering capability and AI talent.” He continued, “We’ll be able to accelerate the exciting developments we have planned in our roadmap, and protect our valuable IP.”

SyndicateRoom’s co-founder, Tom Britton commented, “It’s no wonder the technology being developed by Liopa is so incredible. The team behind it have spent a combined 50+ man years researching or developing the technology. Their backgrounds range from Senior Academics to C- suite Commercial ranging from startups to the likes of Intel. The applications for their platform are wide ranging, everything from helping law enforcement decipher what’s been said on CCTV footage to giving those who have lost their ability to vocalise a new way to easily communicate. We’re delighted to play a role in such an innovative technology that is applying machine learning and AI for an ultimate good.” 

Launched in September 2013, SyndicateRoom is an online investment platform. It has helped 170+ early-stage UK businesses secure more than £215 million in funding through its investor-led equity crowdfunding model.  



Visual Speech Recognition - Read My Lips photo

Liopa commences trials of AI-based LipSecure with established User Authentication and Identity Verification providers to provide enhanced anti-spoofing capabilities.

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EU ERDF

Liopa has received an Invest NI Grant for Research and Development, targeted towards a project to develop LipRead, a Visual Speech Recognition (VSR) product.

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News Story Image

Belfast firm is building lip-reading tools to improve speech-controlled systems.
Neil Briscoe, renowned Motoring journalist, pens excellent article on Liopa’s LipREAD in an in-vehicle environment. Read in full here.

 

Investment

Liopa recently completed a ‘pre-seed’ funding round designed to take the company through development of technology demonstrator and early market proving.

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Liopa was today named the best new start and best early stage companies respectively at the regional final of the 2016 InterTradeIreland All-Island Seedcorn Investor Readiness competition.

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