Success Stories: How Russian Entrepreneurs Build AI in Switzerland

Originally published in Rusbase (in Russian). The article is a part of a joint project ‘Switzerland for your AI project‘ by Swiss Business Hub Russia and Rusbase.

Product

Neurodata Lab is an international company with Russian roots that creates high-hume technological solutions in the field of emotion recognition and their application in a variety of industries, such as customer analytics, digital healthcare, service robotics, education, entertainment industry, and projects involving IoT, VR and AR.

One of the company’s main products is advanced behavioral analytics for customer experience management. Based on emotion analysis, it is carried out by artificial neural networks that recognize human emotions using live video and audio feeds. This solution now attracts interest of insurance companies, mobile network operators, and retailers; moreover, it can be applied for analysis of live video feed from stores and offices. A pilot project involving this technology is now executed by Rosbank (Société Générale Group), one of the company’s key clients.

Furthermore, Neurodata Lab is developing technologies capable of remote detection of stress and physiological parameters, such as heart and respiration rates. As the company CEO Georgy Pliev explains, the company attempts to create an algorithm capable of performing accurate analysis even in compressed videos, such as those recorded by a regular web camera. In addition, Neurodata Lab continues to improve the accuracy of emotion recognition: the company is developing a unified multimodal system that would simultaneously analyze facial microexpressions, voice, movements, gestures, physiological parameters, and the context of social interaction.

Company history

Founded in 2016, Neurodata Lab now has four offices located in Moscow, Lucerne, Milan, and Miami. The company has more than 20 employees including chief executives – Georgy Pliev, Maxim Ryabov, Igor Levin, and Olga Perepelkina. An important part of the company is its in-house R&D Lab and tech development center. In addition, working in a start-up format allows the company to outsource some project tasks.

In August 2017, Neurodata Lab entered Swiss market and intends to strengthen its presence in the country. The company is interested in developing solutions for Swiss banking and insurance sectors.

One of the examples of company’s work in Switzerland is a joint project undertaken with a prominent Swiss media group Tamedia AG. Within its framework, Neurodata Lab analyzed the “emotional profiles” of Swiss politicians.

Shortly before the parliamentary elections, we built emotional profiles of MPs using the video records of their speeches. We analyzed data on emotions drawn from 800 sessions and tested our new algorithm that measures heart rate using video feed. It was a challenge since Swiss politicians are traditionally quite calm when giving speeches and rarely show agitation or strong emotions. The project was purely educational, and it took us more than three months to get everything done, but overall we created a high quality product. Our project proved interesting to the audience thus making it to the top of national news, and we used this opportunity to enter Swiss media landscape. We could show and tell what we do as a company and a lab, what our technologies are capable of, and Tamedia AG got a chance to write about innovations that now make the forefront of technologies.

– Georgy Pliev, CEO at Neurodata Lab.

Swiss opportunities

Switzerland is home to the most prominent technological universities and research centers belonging to industry leaders such as IBM, Google, and Disney. All of it allows market players to collaborate with labs, use resources of local datacenters, and communicate with top class research centers. Moreover, the state actively supports research projects: for instance, within the framework of Innosuisse program, a company can undertake a project jointly with a major university, and the Swiss Confederation would fund a substantial part of this collaboration. In addition, Switzerland is known for its political and economic stability, which attracts businesses from all over the globe, – shares Neurodata Lab CEO Georgy Pliev.

The company develops partnerships with key Swiss academic institutions – University of Geneva, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Pliev adds that Switzerland hosts a vast number of independent international research centers. He believes that in the AI sphere, the country provides expert knowledge in fields related to medicine, robotics, smart transport, and banking. Considering the specifics of Neurodata Lab’s activities, the company is especially interested in collaborating with labs focused on related topics, such as affective technologies and other potential high-tech fields where such technologies could be in demand.

We are talking about prominent innovation centers such as IDIAP, AIT Lab, and NCCR Affective Sciences, – adds Pliev.

Lucerne, where one of Neurodata Lab’s offices is located.

Plans for the future

According to CEO, Neurodata Lab would soon launch a new API-service that would open access to the full stack of company’s technologies for users worldwide: it would include a range of technologies from facial detection to Customer Satisfaction Index calculator based on emotion analysis. The company targets a wide range of potential clients who could need simple solutions for emotion analysis: small enterprises, game and app developers, small technological companies, PR, video and event agencies. Said solution will be capable of accomplishing a variety of tasks, such as analyzing customer behavior, helping apps adapt to user’s moods, and analyzing viewers’ reactions to content and making it interactive.

The company actively collaborates with leading labs researching related topics, in particular, affective sciences and recognition of social signals and patterns of human behavior. In the last year alone, Neurodata Lab began cooperating with five research institutes including universities of Glasgow and Geneva, and launched internship programs with Mines ParisTech and Higher School of Economics (Russia).

Furthermore, it is planned to steadily increase headcount in local teams that would not only represent the company but also carry out research and be engaged in technology development. In Switzerland, the team would be responsible for two lines of activity: business engineering and promotion locally and in the EU, and academic collaborations and research projects.

Advice to entrepreneurs launching business in Switzerland

“If you intend to enter Swiss market to set up a company or an establishment of a foreign company, it is pivotal for you to be aware of national and local specifics, regulatory requirements, and available infrastructure. The general advice is to contact cantonal agencies for business promotion, find local legal support, and simply visit different cantons in order to compare them to each other. For some people, it is important to set up a company close to universities and datacenters, others prefer the vicinity of banks or pharm clusters. The choice of a “launching platform” often defines whether you will succeed in Switzerland in the future.”