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StageZero has raised $1.8 million in funding to give gamers rewards for participating in in-app tasks that generate valuable AI training data.
The funding will enable StageZero to expand its team, refine its product efficiencies, and continue building tools to help companies ethically develop AI systems quickly and easily.
Until now, the data needed to train machine learning models so that they can understand certain contexts (for example, what a safety helmet looks like), and solve problems has been hard to attain, with companies facing long delivery times. Despite these issues, according to Memory Leak, the AI training data market will be worth $5 billion by 2023, with the industry growing 31% year on year.
StageZero inserts in-app “microtasks” into mobile games. These are bite-sized activities that users can complete in exchange for rewards and perks, including coins and extra lives. The tasks are similar to but more engaging than, the typical in-app adverts found in free-to-play games.
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Denver-based Konvoy Ventures led the round, with participation from Turkish venture studio Ludus, blockchain firm Hyperamp, and existing investors Into Ventures, Nordic Game Ventures, Alexis Bonte (Stillfront Group chief operating officer), Andrew Sheppard (managing director at Transcend), and Wilhelm Taht (senior vice president at GSN).
StageZero has now raised a total of $2.8 million since being founded in 2016. Konvoy Ventures managing partner Jackson Vaughan has joined its board.
Typically, the tasks will include “labeling” items by drawing boxes around certain objects or providing simple audible translations, using their voice. Gamers’ inputs generate both computer vision data (an AI technology allowing computers to accurately understand and label images).
Labeled images are useful for lots of things like driverless cars, retail inventory management, medical diagnostics, agriculture, and worker safety, and natural language processing (NLP) data for training virtual assistants to speak different languages. Beyond mobile games, StageZero also works with e-learning platforms to access highly motivated reward seekers.
StageZero’s data, which is otherwise hard to collect and label, is not only more diverse (and subsequently more viable), but also 100% compliant with data privacy laws, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). StageZero’s own benchmarks show that it has higher accuracy than the industry-standard service, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and at a third of the cost.
“We are accelerating the AI revolution, with our technology providing value across the entire chain. With our technology, companies can source AI training quickly, while gamers have their user experience enhanced,” said StageZero CEO Thomas Forss, in a statement. ““By harnessing the power of mobile gamers, a segment which continues to grow rapidly, we will drive rapid, yet ethical, technological progress through data, and with this funding we are now ready to significantly expand our team and refine our product.”
“The data labeling marketplace that StageZero is building for game studios and data science teams provides a better experience for players, a new and potentially more lucrative revenue stream for mobile games, and a scalable labeling solution for teams building machine learning models,” said Vaughan, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to back the Forss brothers and the rest of the StageZero team as they bring micro tasks to gamers all over the world.”
Brothers Thomas and Nicklas Forss started the Helsinki company in 2016 as a game development company, aiming to utilize AI in games. They realized that the AI data needed for algorithms to function is hard to come by and expensive and that it was possible to solve the lack of AI data by using gamers and app users and started developing the MicroTasks technology. They have a team of 11 people.
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