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Cognex adds deep learning expertise with ViDi Systems acquisition

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Cognex has acquired Swiss image processing firm ViDi Systems for an undisclosed fee. The acquisition was completed on 4 April.

ViDi Systems develops deep learning software for industrial machine vision, a relatively new method for analysing images based on artificial intelligence techniques.

The acquisition adds new image processing technology to Cognex’s product portfolio. Deep learning algorithms can improve image analysis in applications where it is difficult to predict the full range of image variations that might be encountered. Using feedback, ViDi's software trains the system to distinguish between acceptable variations and defects.

The software was shortlisted for the Vision Award at last year’s Vision show in Stuttgart, Germany.

Cognex has been active in buying companies over the last nine months, purchasing three 3D vision companies – Chiaro Technologies in November 2016, EnShape in October 2016, and Aqsense in August 2016 – as well as barcode verification solution provider Webscan in December 2016.

The latest acquisition of ViDi Systems brings a fast-developing branch of computer vision into Cognex’s expertise.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the 2016 Vision show in Stuttgart, Richard York, VP of embedded marketing at computer chip provider Arm, commented that machine learning is ‘going to change the face of this industry’ and that ‘those that ignore machine learning do so at their peril’. He pointed to the amount of investment being made in developing advanced driver assistance systems with machine learning technology.

Halcon version 13 from MVTec includes optical character recognition functions based on deep learning technology, which MVTec says make the recognition process faster than previous classification methods.

‘The ViDi team is at the forefront of applying deep learning techniques to the real-world challenges of industrial machine vision,’ Robert Willett, president and CEO of Cognex, said in a statement. ‘We are excited to bring this expertise to Cognex to broaden the scope of applications that can be addressed at a world-class level with Cognex vision.’

Upon closing, ViDi Systems became part of Cognex's Vision Products business unit, where its deep learning software will continue to be developed and integrated into the Cognex product portfolio. The transaction is not expected to have a material impact on Cognex's financial results in 2017 or 2018.

Cognex posted annual revenue for 2016 of $520.75 million, an increase of 16 per cent over 2015.

ViDi Systems, based in Villaz-St-Pierre, Switzerland, was founded in 2012 by Dr Reto Wyss, a computational neuroscience PhD, and the CPA Group, a Swiss industrial holding company and business incubator.

Wyss and ViDi's team of engineers joined Cognex at the time of the closing on 4 April, and Cognex will maintain operations at the company's current site in Switzerland.

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