Dextro, the SoHo-based computer vision and machine learning company that makes videos searchable, discoverable, and understandable by machines founded in 2013 by Sanchit Arora and David Luan has been acquired by TASER. TASER provides public safety technology including smart weapons, body-worn video, and evidence management solutions for law enforcement. With the acquisition, TASER is announcing the launch of a new artificial intelligence division named Axon AI on the backbone of Dextro deep learning technology. Dextro had prevoiously raised a seed round of $1.71M from YEI Innovation Fund, Connecticut Innovations, Two Sigma Ventures, RRE Ventures, KBS Ventures, Tarek Sherif, Glen de Vries, Michael Provenzano, Esther Dyson, Jaan Tallinn, and Semil Shah. The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.
Today, we chat with Dextro CEO and cofounder David Luan about the acquisition, the decision to sell, and the future.
Tell us about your service.
Dextro is a developer of advanced computer vision, machine learning, and data analytics technologies for understanding video. Dextro is the first deep learning company to analyze livestreams in real-time, and to join visual, audio, and motion analysis into one unified model.
Who acquired you and what was the acquisition process like?
Dextro was acquired by TASER International. Dextro’s technology and machine learning platform will serve as the foundation for Axon’s video analytics products. The team will join TASER’s Axon business unit and form a new AI R&D group called Axon AI focused on tackling hard engineering challenges and designing state-of-the-art deep learning solutions. We’ve known TASER CEO Rick Smith and the Axon team for a long time; many of our partners in public safety work with Evidence.com. The acquisition is a natural fit for both companies, and furthers both companies’ shared mission to bring cutting-edge technology solutions to law enforcement.
What factors about your business led TASER International to consider the acquisition?
Law enforcement departments are generating a massive unique dataset of first-person video from body-worn camera programs, and the vast majority of the data – 5.4 petabytes of it – is stored within the Axon ecosystem. Axon realized early on that the departments they were servicing were inundated by the amount of data these body worn cameras generate and understood that machine learning could help them glean valuable insights from it. The companies knew each other from the market already, and when the time came for Axon to consider growing this area strategically, we began discussions.
What factors about TASER International influenced your decision to be acquired?
Dextro built out media as its first vertical market, and had been closely monitoring the proliferation of video in law enforcement. In 2015, we created a second vertical for public safety when body-worn video started growing exponentially. It was also during this time that we were approached by the Chief Data Science office of the White House. Since then, we’ve experienced a lot of traction and growth in public safety analytics for our video product.
We built a machine learning system that transforms unstructured video content into usable data by automatically categorizing the audiovisual elements based on pertinent objects, scenes, and actions. Having the opportunity to ingest petabytes of data – a resource that is available at Axon – will only accelerate our pace of innovation and allow us to build on top of our existing machine learning models. Moreover, not many research teams gain access to this kind of data, let alone high-quality data specific to the depth of a particular domain. Our team is really excited to augment our current capabilities in solving some of the open problems related to the law enforcement field and most importantly the social impact it could have.
What are your plans going forward?
The Dextro product will carry through to Axon, and our team will expand the video analytics platform on top of our existing ML technology while advancing the industry as a whole. We will also be setting up a new research group within Axon – headquartered in New York – and work towards our shared vision: that data can have a major social impact by increasing transparency between law enforcement and communities.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that are building their businesses?
NYC is an amazing hub for AI. Focus relentlessly on building products your end customers want.