Osaro, an early-stage artificial intelligence startup, is announcing today a new seed round totaling $3.3 million. The startup is boasting a few high-profile investors: Peter Thiel, Scott Banister, Sean Parker, Elad Gil, Adam Weissman, Darian Shirazi, Daniel Loeb, Nicholas Berggruen, Morado Ventures, and AME Cloud Ventures.
In the small world of AI startups, an approach called deep learning is currently in vogue. The method involves training neural nets on large quantities of data, such as photos, and then getting them to make inferences on new data. Osaro blends deep learning with reinforcement learning, a technique that generally entails teaching machines through trial and error. The startup’s technology “allows human mentors to teach machines how to autonomously take actions to achieve high-level goals,” according to a statement.
Some startups that remain independently owned, like Clarifai, MetaMind, and Nervana, have taken on considerable amounts of funding from respected investors. But there are signs that the market for general-purpose AI technology might be smaller than the current AI excitement would suggest. Recently, Ersatz Labs let go of most of its employees.
Some startups have come out with a focus on specific industries, such as security, health care, and financial services. Osaro says it’s interested in robotics, but the technology can be applied to other areas.
One point of distinction for Osaro: its software is proprietary, and patent pending at that — even as there are many open-source deep learning frameworks available today.
Osaro started earlier this year and is based in San Francisco. Cofounder and chief executive Itamar Arel is principal investigator of the Machine Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Previously, Arel was chief technology officer at startup Binatix.