‘Bat-like’ sensor could help social distancing as lockdown lifts

A disruptive Scottish start-up company based in the Edinburgh Business School Incubator has developed a sensor which allows an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to understand the physical world around it.

Taking inspiration from the natural world, the technology uses echolocation instead of light to receive images in a similar way to a bat which uses sound to understand its surroundings. The resulting picture appears without identifiable data so that privacy is protected.

Focusing initially on domestic applications, the breakthrough from start-up IMERAI, is essential for privacy in the home. However, the sensor’s applications are wide ranging, including facilitating social distancing in office buildings and supporting those with dementia and other assisted living needs.

IMERAI has now attracted sufficient investment to build a full engineering team with the addition of five new roles.

Alex Bowen, a recent Heriot-Watt University graduate, founded IMERAI in 2018. He evolved the technology from his dissertation project into a business with support and guidance from the Edinburgh Business School Incubator, based at the University. Bowen said: “To train and build an A.I. you need to teach it how to interpret information which is most often described by a human. All A.I.s need to constantly learn and adapt to understand the world like we do. But industry continues to face the challenge of how to teach A.I. about what happens in people’s homes without invading users’ privacy from human oversight or camera use