Startup: Face Recognition Intercom Chui / Now Trueface AI Software Analytics

By Brian Rhodes, Published on Mar 13, 2014

This is one of the most ambitious security / surveillance startups we have seen in years.

Face surveillance startups, targeted at the professional or government markets, have struggled, again and again.

Now, a new company, Chui, is combining facial recognition, a video intercom and a doorbell in a single device, acting as a virtual bouncer - lets those you approve in, but dismisses those not on the list with a custom audio message.

Is there a market for these advanced features, and at what price? We answer those questions in this note.

2019 Update - Pivot to Software-Only Analytics / $3.7Million Funding

Chui rebranded as Trueface AI in 2017, and pivoted away from smart doorbell solutions to an AI software video analytics company. Trueface says they can run at the edge or in the cloud, utilizing NVIDIA GPUs for supporting existing camera installations:

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They received $3.7 million in Series A funding in July 2019, bringing their total fundraising to ~$5 million since 2017.

This is a move from one crowded space (Directory of Video Doorbells) to another (Directory Of 109 Video Analytics Suppliers), and while $5 million is good fundraising for video surveillance, it is considerably lower than other AI analytics startups (AI Startup Anyvision Raises $28 Million (Now $43 Million) Led By Bosch).

We have not tested Trueface, so we cannot comment on how well their analytics perform.

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Product Overview

Chui makes some fantastic claims. The promo video below give a three minute intro of the device:

Key Features

Real Time Notifications: Central to the device is the claim it communicates with the owner's mobile device with no lag or latency. The idea is when someone rings the bell, the device is able to serve video and audio remotely quickly and smoothly enough to carry at two-way audio conversation between parties, and send video from Chui's integrated HD camera

Identity Based Messages: As soon as Chui identifies (or doesn't identify) the person standing in front of it, it will play a custom audio message to that individual. The can range from a welcoming greeting to friends or family to "get lost" for enemies or unrecognized solicitors. The unit keeps a running log of who tries or gained access and is displayed in the app/portal page:

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Automatic Unlock: Chui claims it will integrate out of the box with Lockitron, so that if a 'approved' face is registered it will automatically unlock the door.

Cost: The magic pricepoint for 'smart doorbells' appears to be $199. This is Chui's pre-production price, and also the cost of similar units like Doorbot and Skybell. However, if Chui delivers on it's promised features, it will offer more power for the same price.

Doorbot Comparison

Chui closely parallels the features of Doorbot (our coverage here), a unit that won heaps of hype, but has fallen flat in the field. Both units claim to offer real-time remote interaction between the unit and mobile device and integration between the video unit and door locks.

However, Chui claims to add more than just face recognition to their unit. The also claim the ability to tap into a live camera feed, an "HD camera", and a commercial feature set including 'Time & Attendance' and multi-factor authentication including QR Code support.

Sketchy Implementation

Chui is not a viable product yet. Still in the fundraising stage, the product is long on claims that lack field verification. While the project is on track to meet it's campaign goal, early fundraising success is no guarantee of product performance. Additionally, they are only targeting a raise of $30,000 which is not much, even compared to other crowdsourcing campaigns.

Potential Pitfalls

Like with Doorbot's example, even the most promising product can fall victim to poor execution.

With any 'face rec' technology, execution is everything. Not only does the underlying tech need to be on point, but a handful of other variables like sun position, subjects wearing common accessories like sunglasses or hats, and low-light performance can kill a product dead. Especially considering Chui is a DIY product, we do not expect actual performance to match the company's expected "99.6 accuracy" claim.

It's certainly worth a shot though especially as it is trying a novel approach for the residential market.

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