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Happy 10th Birthday Movidius

Movidius Celebrates it’s 10th year in business this month and to commemorate the occasion, the co-founders Sean Mitchell and David Moloney have put together a little walk down memory lane for those curious about how a little idea scratched onto the back of a menu grew into a global company leading the visual computing revolution.

The idea for Movidia was first hatched in early 2005. David Moloney was his doing PhD research in Trinity College Dublin in High Performance Computing. At Trinity College he was in contact with Andy Nisbett in Computer Science who explained some of the work the College were doing on game physics which turned out to be very closely related to David’s work on high-performance numerical solvers (linear algebra) for mechanical engineering problems. David thought some more and started to discuss ideas with Sean Mitchell who was a long term collaborator and colleague from 1994 when they were both part of the team that took Parthus Technologies to IPO. David and Sean shared their idea with Valentin Muresan to figure out how they could develop it on a startup budget. One thing lead to another and Sean, David and Val ended up having a series of clandestine meetings during 2005 in the Porterhouse North in Dublin to flesh out the ideas. In the most clichéd fashion the original system block-diagram for what turned out to be the first Movidius chip was drawn by David on the back of a menu card as shown above.

(Interestingly the Porterhouse is only 1km from where William Rowan Hamilton carved his quaternion equations into Broom Bridge on his daily walk along the canal to Dunsink observatory 162 years previously almost to the day!)

David and Val came up with the idea of the neutron logo and irreverent Einstein pic as our motto was “bringing mobile to life” and we reckoned we were going to do nuclear physics compared to our competitors. 

Our Series A round of funding in 2008 also brought with it a brand new name and logo for the company as we decided Movidius had a slightly better ring to it. At the close of this round, we brought on board our new CFO, John Bourke, who has steered the company through all successful funding rounds to date.

Movidius started out targeting acceleration of Game Physics and AI so the initial SHAVE processor architecture and instruction set and the dimensioning of the memory system were optimised towards these applications. We decided on multicore from the outset to allow us to make a programmable chip with low power, allowing us to do in software what would otherwise have require dedicated hardware with the associated mask costs. We also decided from the outset that we were going to be a fabless semiconductor company rather than an IP provider given Sean and David’s experience at Parthus. The focus on a low-power programmable platform was key to ensuring our unique proposition in the market and still remains a core speciality of our technology today.

It was clear with our focus on programmable devices that we had to beef up our software team and focus on embedded software and to this end we brought the 4th founder, Martin Mellody, onboard in late 2005. Martin ended up doing the lion’s share of the travelling back and forth between Dublin and Timisoara offices for the next few years, growing the SW team until his untimely death in 2009. Movidius would not be where it is today without Martin’s contributions and he remains sorely missed by the team.

After the first year of feasibility study on accelerating game-physics, Movidius joined the Hothouse incubation programme in Dublin and started to ramp up the IC design team to get our first test chip “ISAAC” off the ground. The ISAAC design was already very advanced by the time the company took on the first external funding with investment from Enterprise Ireland in August of 2007 followed by an investment round from angel investors in November of 2007.

The ISAAC test chip was taped out at the end of 2007 and we had working silicon back on 65nm process technology from TSMC by March of 2008.

While the chip design was going on, the software team were working to build development tools and the game physics engine software. Meanwhile, murmurs from the market started to drive the product definition more towards imaging and video processing and this fed into the product definition of “SABRE” which became Myriad 1. And, together with Toshiba, we developed a Myriad1 version with a 512Mb stacked DRAM and began the development of our first Image Signal Processing pipelines and 3D rectification processing for stereoscopic capture from the 2 camera interfaces of Myriad 1.

The depth processing we had been developing through this effort and the dual camera module from Toshiba enabled us to engage with Motorola Mobility which became part of Google. As we fleshed out the architecture of “Fragrak” (Myriad 2), targeting 28nm technology, we formalised the engagement with Motorola late in 2012 around a computer vision project for object tracking called “Project Pink”. Project Pink eventually became the Google Project “Tango”. 

This engagement prompted new investors to join the company and by May we had established a new HQ in Silicon Valley and strengthened the management team of the company with Remi El-Ouazzane coming on board as the new CEO and Farshid Sabet as Chief Business Officer. With the new funding on board we could put the foot down on execution of the Myriad 2 design.

Here now in 2015 at the 10 year mark we are in the second version of a unique offering in the burgeoning field of machine intelligence. We have some fantastic customers building next-gen products using Movidius technology, and we can’t wait to show you what’s in store for visually intelligent devices.

Happy Birthday Movidius! 

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