San Diego’s KnuEdge, Stealthy Since 2005, Unveils Neural Tech

After operating in the shadows for the past 11 years, a San Diego neural technology company founded by former NASA administrator Dan Goldin is stepping into the light to introduce two commercial products intended to advance the frontier of human-machine interaction.

In a statement released yesterday, Goldin said the company founded in 2005 as Intellisis and now known as KnuEdge set out “to create technologies that will in essence alter how humans interact with machines, and enable next-generation computing capabilities.” The new technologies introduced for commercial markets are:

—KnuVerse, a voice-recognition technology that uses neuroscience techniques to filter other voices and environmental noise. KnuEdge says its software makes the security of human voice-based biometrics possible in noisy, real-world environments.

—LambdaFabric, computer processor technology based on neurobiological principles that is intended to accelerate neural computing technology. KnuEdge said its LambdaFabric technology is ideally suited for massively parallel processing applications, and can operate alone or be integrated with Intel processors and other processors. The technology is available for use in neural computing to support machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and signal processing.

KnuEdge said it already has generated $20 million in revenue and is “actively engaged” with elite hyperscale computing companies and Fortune 500 companies in the aerospace, banking, healthcare, hospitality, and insurance industries. The company now has about 100 employees at its San Diego headquarters, and in offices in Austin, TX, and Redwood City, CA.

The company operated for over 10 years as Intellisis, raised about $100 million from private investors, and maintained a low profile as a government contractor with special expertise in signal processing and machine learning. Key early figures include CTO Doug Palmer, a pioneer in the development of video-over-IP technology who also worked at San Diego’s Linkabit and HNC Software, and chief engineer David Eames, one of HNC’s original staff scientists and an expert in neural networks and parallel computing applications.

Kate Dilligan, a KnuEdge co-founder and executive vice president, said Goldin’s prominence at NASA made it easier for the small company to advance its technologies under government contracts. “We went to where some of the hardest problems were in both computation and in speaker authentication,” Dilligan said. The company worked under a contract with DARPA, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and for other defense agencies, but Dilligan would not be more specific.

As Intellisis, the company sought to recruit specialists in neuroscience, software, and hardware technologies to develop innovations that support pattern recognition, speech processing, and high-throughput computing.

But the secretive company provided little information in early 2015 (when there were about 40 employees), trying instead to lure qualified applicants with several tantalizing “clues”—an image of a “Connectome,” (a wiring diagram of the neural connections of the brain), a brain, and a tesseract (or hypercube). My interpretation of the clues suggests the company is taking neuroscience-inspired technology to a new dimension.

Intellisis clues

[The Intellisis link is no longer active]

Goldin, who is now 75, declined to talk about the company at the time, writing in an e-mail, “We have not yet publically discussed our commercial product offerings.”

It also was rumored in San Diego technology circles in early 2015 that the company’s voice-recognition technology was used by the American intelligence community to identify “Jihadi John,” the British Arab seen in several videos released by the Islamic extremist group ISIS. The videos showed the beheadings of American journalist James Foley and other captives in 2014 and 2015. U.S. officials said last November that “Jihadi John,” who had been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, was killed in a drone strike. ISIS confirmed his death in its Dabiq magazine in January.

When I asked about the speculation, Dilligan declined to respond, saying, “Any application that the government used it for, we’re not able to discuss.”

Still, in its commercial debut as KnuEdge, the company says its “KnuVerse” product delivers “military-grade” voice-recognition and verification technology, claiming its system “unlocks the potential of voice interfaces to power next-generation computing.”

KnuEdge says its voice technology can authenticate a speaker, even in extremely noisy environments. The company says it could be used to recognize a user “with only a few words spoken into a microphone” in any language. It can be used in a variety of situations and across a host of devices, including computers, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors.

With the introduction of natural language software like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa, Dilligan said KnuVerse technology could open the way for a wave of new innovations in commercial voice technology.

KnuEdge also has begun marketing its technology in the banking, entertainment, and hospitality industries. “We’ve been talking with a lot of fintech companies, and millennials don’t like to use passwords, and they don’t like to carry around a lot of stuff,” Dilligan said.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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