In collaboration with MaRS Innovation and researchers, York engineering Professor John Tsotsos and York alumnus Ehsan Fazl-Ersi (PhD ’12), Innovation York led a deal to strengthen Slyce’s mobile image recognition application for retail e-commerce.
Slyce is a premium provider of visual search technology for retailers, brands and publishers. Its platform allows customers to take a picture of real-world products with their smartphone and then find direct or close-matching products from the retailer’s catalogue, which they are able to purchase on the spot.
Slyce has acquired a computer vision technology developed at York University that quickly analyzes and aggregates similar images. Through the acquisition, Slyce also hired Fazl-Ersi as its new head of research and development, to lead the integration of the intellectual property into Slyce’s Visual Search Platform.
“Identifying and classifying an object captured within a scene is difficult due to the effects of background clutter, lighting variations and viewpoint changes on the object’s appearance,” says Fazl-Ersi, who designed and developed the technology with Tsotsos, his PhD supervisor. Tsotsos is a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a member and former director of York’s Centre for Vision Research.
“This is a much bigger problem for mobile applications where the algorithm’s speed and efficiency are the difference between losing a consumer or making a sale,” says Fazl-Ersi. “Our technology will provide higher accuracy when quickly identifying retail items so that consumers can choose among similar items according to style, colour or pattern using a mobile device.”
The researchers partnered with MaRS Innovation and Innovation York, York’s commercialization office, to file patent protection on the initial technology, develop a commercialization plan, secure grant funding, facilitate business development meetings and negotiate the resulting transaction.
“Slyce is excited to reach this deal with York University and MaRS Innovation and add another piece of unique technology to our platform,” said Adam Jarczyn, Slyce’s chief product officer. “Visual search is experiencing explosive growth and has become a compelling way for retailers to engage their customers. York’s technology provides us with another competitive edge in ensuring a high-quality consumer shopping experience.”
Through a Market Readiness Phase I Grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the researchers were able to better understand the computer vision marketplace and create software development kits that let potential industry partners test the technology and benchmark it against state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms.
“York University is pleased to support this deal, which will make Professor Tsotsos’s and Dr. Fazl-Ersi’s computer vision technology available to customers all over the world,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “The deal demonstrates Innovation York’s ability to assist our researchers in commercializing their intellectual property and securing employment for the highly qualified professionals who are trained at York.”