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Endeavor Invests in AI Foundation, Startup That Has Created AI Filters to Spot Deepfakes Photos

Endeavor is among the investors in AI Foundation’s $10 million initial round of funding, fueling the artificial-intelligence startup’s development of AI tools including a system that scans for and detects fake media.

It’s the first outside funding for San Francisco-based AI Foundation, founded in 2017. The round was led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund venture-capital firm and marketing-tech company You & Mr Jones, with participation by Endeavor and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Other investors in AI Foundation include movie producer Charles D. King, founder and CEO of production company Macro.

The startup has an ambitious dual mission of creating both free artificial-intelligence tools to thwart the negative effects of AI as well as sell commercial products. The lofty goal of the AI Foundation: to “move humanity forward through the power of decentralized, trusted, personal AI, while anticipating and counteracting the risks of AI’s proliferation in society,” according to the company.

AI Foundation recently introduced the first phase of Reality Defender, software built to run alongside digital experiences (such as web browsing) to detect potentially fake media. Similar to antivirus software, it scans every image, video, and other media that a user encounters for known fakes, allows reporting of suspected fakes, and runs new media through various AI-driven analysis techniques to detect signs of alteration or artificial generation.

Lars Buttler, who is AI Foundation’s CEO, previously co-founded and was CEO of Trion Worlds, a games company whose massively multiplayer online games include “Trove” and “Rift.” He said the dual nonprofit/commercial mission is central to the startup’s success.

“Bringing personal AI to everyone opens up a new world of personal media, forever transforming entertainment and communications,” Buttler said.

Explaining AI Foundation’s partnership with Endeavor, Buttler said the talent agency and media company represents “many great stars, people who move the world,” Buttler said. “They have a very high interest in AI and what it can do for the world as well as preventing some of the dangers.” He cited the issues that have cropped up with Deepfakes, an AI tool that allows the image of a celebrity to be be superimposed on pornography.

Rob Meadows, the CTO of AI Foundation who previously founded AI-enabled software startup Originate, said the Reality Defender works today as a browser plug-in similar to ad blocker. The goal is to have the technology broadly adopted as a way to alert users when they encounter fake media on the web.

With the funding, Founders Fund partner Cyan Banister and David Jones, founder of You & Mr Jones, have joined the AI Foundation’s board. In addition, Biz Stone has joined the startup’s Global AI Council advisory group, tasked with researching and evaluating how AI can “move humanity forward, as well as anticipate and counteract its risks.”

“The potential to recognize the true promise of AI and to amplify the best traits of humanity are the driving values of The AI Foundation,” Stone said in a prepared statement. “The recognition and proactive approach to the possible negative impact of this technology is also reassuring.”

Buttler said AI Foundation will be announcing commercial products in the next few months, based on its decentralizeed artificial-intelligence technologies. The company has 25 employees currently, most of whom are engineers and scientists.

“Our focus will be commercial development and applications that naturally come out of the foundational technologies we are developing,” Buttler said.

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