PRSONAS, a Durham startup developing artificially intelligent digital mannequins, has just secured $525,000 in new debt financing, primarily from North Carolina angel investment groups such as Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF).
Co-founder David Rose says the funder has been an ongoing process since Christmas and, now that it’s closed, he can work on expanding the six-person team. Four open positions are already listed, and he hopes to have up to 15 working at the upstart by the end of the year.
A PRSONAS mannequin representing Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The American Underground startup, which just moved across the street from its former headquarters, settling into a larger space at AU’s new @Market campus, develops silhouettes that often take the form of digital greeters.
There’s Angeline, for example, a fictitious female that, while she looks like a real person, is actually a two-dimensional digital silhouette. She can interact with you, as she’s armed with PRSONAS developed software. And, while you may think otherwise if you meet her, she’s not a video projection of an actor – she’s completely a digital likeness, though PRSONAS can imitate real people (and even dinosaurs, such as a project they did with the North Carolina Zoo) by request.
For now, silhouettes, such as Angeline, are leased to companies such as Microsoft to act as lobby greeters. They come with an upfront cost that starts at $10,000 and monthly fees of about $375. And they’re novel exhibits at conventions, too. Rodeo champion Trevor Brazile’s likeness was programmed onto a silhouette, thanks to a Wrangler Jeans partnership, and greeted visitors at the 2014 National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, for example. During one week, the silhouette with his likeness logged more than 1,500 interactions with fans, capturing email addresses for Wrangler marketing offers.
But Rose and his cohorts have bigger plans. They see the data-collecting silhouettes someday replacing cashiers at retail stores, scanning for suspicious activity at airports and acting as hotel concierges at high-end resorts.