Slyce acquires YorkU computer vision technology for retail e-commerce

Deal led by MaRS Innovation and Innovation York to strengthen Slyce’s mobile image recognition application for retail e-commerce

TORONTO, Feb. 4, 2014—Slyce today announced that it has acquired a computer vision technology developed at York University that quickly analyzes and aggregates similar images. Through the acquisition, Slyce also hired former York PhD student, Dr. Ehsan Fazl-Ersi, to lead the integration of the intellectual property into Slyce’s Visual Search Platform as their new head of Research & Development.

Slyce is a premium provider of visual search technology for retailers, brands and publishers. Their 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.

“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 his PhD supervisor, Dr. John K. Tsotsos, 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 market place 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’ and Dr. Fazl-Ersi’s computer vision technology available to customers all over the world,” said Dr. 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.”

“The Slyce-York transaction will allow a Canadian company to secure Canadian intellectual property and a highly qualified professional from a Canadian institution,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “This transaction reaffirms our capability to move technology from the lab to the market so that it benefits our members and their researchers in several ways. We look forward to making rare transactions like this one more commonplace.”

About York University
York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York’s unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre, York is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York’s 11 faculties and 27 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 288 leading universities worldwide. York’s community is strong — 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 250,000 alumni.

About Slyce
Slyce is a visual product search platform which enables people to discover and purchase the things they love by snapping a photo with their smartphone or hovering over an image on their desktop. Using advanced image recognition technology, Slyce integrates with the world’s leading retail brands, enabling them to be there at their customers’ point of inspiration — wherever that might be.
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About MaRS Innovation
MaRS Innovation (MI) is the commercialization agent for 16 of Ontario’s leading academic institutions. Its development pipeline, grounded in $1 billion in annual research and development, provides a gateway for investors and licensees to access the most promising technologies from MI’s member institutions. Supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and by its 16 members, MI advances its portfolio assets into global markets through industry partnerships, licensing and company creation. For more information, see http://www.marsinnovation.com.

Media Contact
For further information and interviews please contact:
Josh Stanbury | josh[at]slyce.it | 403-781-6671

Janice Walls, York University Media Relations, 416 736 2100 x22101 / wallsj@yorku.ca