Humanloop, a startup that makes it easier for companies of all sizes to adopt AI technology, is launching a transformative new product off the back of a £2.1 million seed funding round. 

The seed round was led by the global venture capital firm Index Ventures, with participation by Y Combinator, LocalGlobe and Albion. 

Founded in 2020 by a team of preeminent computer scientists from UCL and Cambridge, and alumni of Google and Amazon, Humanloop is tackling the hugely time-consuming problem of humans needing to draw on their judgement and domain-expertise in order to label the massive data sets required to train machine learning algorithms. 

Without the help of Humanloop’s technology, the amount of time it takes to get an algorithm up and running means that these tailored applications are beyond the reach of most businesses and organisations. 

Humanloop overcomes this roadblock by drawing on innovations in computer science that make it possible to automate the labelling of data, as well as to build robust models from smaller data sets and to continuously update those models. 

The company’s latest intelligent annotation product, Programmatic, lets an expert such as a lawyer, doctor or banker capture some relevant area of knowledge in a few simple rules, which the software can then apply at enormous scale across a large data set.

“People would be shocked if they knew what language-based AI was capable of now,” said CEO Raza Habib. “But getting the data into a form that the algorithm can use is the biggest challenge. 

“With Humanloop, we want to democratise access to AI and enable the next generation of intelligent, self-serve applications – by allowing any company to take its domain expertise and distil it efficiently in a machine learning model.”

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Humanloop’s technology has helped algorithms become proficient at tasks such as building a picture of a national real estate market from unstructured data on the internet; reading through electronic health records to identify people who would could be candidates to try new therapies, capturing legal data at the end of commercial deals; moderating comments on Facebook groups; and generating draft responses to incoming customer service inquiries that usually demand hundreds of man-hours. 

A major breakthrough behind Humanloop’s success is the growth of ‘probabilistic deep learning’, where algorithms are born with the ability to know what they don’t know. 

Instead of using data indiscriminately to create a model, Humanloop’s software can sift out a lot of noise and redundancy in data sets, identifying high-value data points and asking humans for help with ‘edge cases’. 

This ability allows them to learn much more quickly and create more accurate AI models with far less data than conventional approaches. It also allows for a continuous loop of learning, instead of ‘waterfall’ sequence where the labelling process is distinct from the training and deployment phases.

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Habib co-founded the company with his academic supervisors Professor Emine Yilmax and Professor David Barber, the head of UCL’s AI centre, and now also the chief research officer at Humanloop; Jordan Burgess, chief product officer and former data scientist at Amazon and Bloomsbury AI (later acquired by Facebook); and Peter Hayes, the chief technical officer who co-founded intelligent finance platform Certua and was on the UCL machine learning PhD programme with Habib.

With the new funding, Humanloop has hired new engineering talent. Its new Programmatic product is being used by over 30 companies, and is growing its user base by more than 10% per week.