Vicarious (company)

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Privately held
Industry Artificial intelligence
Founded 2010 (2010)
Founders D. Scott Phoenix and Dileep George
Headquarters San Francisco, California, U.S.

Vicarious is an artificial intelligence company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. They are using the theorized computational principles of the brain to build software that can think and learn like a human.


The company was founded in 2010 by D. Scott Phoenix and Dr. Dileep George. Before co-founding Vicarious, Phoenix was Entrepreneur in Residence at Founders Fund and CEO of Frogmetrics, a touchscreen analytics company he co-founded through the Y Combinator incubator program. Previously, Dr. George was Chief Technology Officer at Numenta,[1] a company he co-founded with Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky (PALM, HAND) while completing his PhD at Stanford University.[2]


The company launched in February 2011 with funding from Founders Fund, Dustin Moskovitz, Adam D’Angelo (former Facebook CTO and co-founder of Quora), Felicis Ventures, and Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale. In August 2012, in its Series A round of funding, it raised an additional US $ 15 million. The round was led by Good Ventures; Founders Fund, Open Field Capital and Zarco Investment Group also participated.[2]

The company received 40 million dollars in its Series B round of funding. The round was led by such notables as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla, and Ashton Kutcher.[3] An additional undisclosed amount was later contributed by CEO Jeff Bezos, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, Skype co-founder Janus Friis and CEO Marc Benioff.[4]

Recursive Cortical Network[edit]

Vicarious is developing machine learning software based on the computational principles of the human brain. Known as the Recursive Cortical Network (RCN), it is a visual perception system that interprets the contents of photographs and videos in a manner similar to humans. The system is powered by a balanced approach that takes sensory data, mathematics, and biological plausibility into consideration.[5][6] On October 22, 2013, beating CAPTCHA, Vicarious announced its AI was reliably able to solve modern CAPTCHAs, with character recognition rates of 90% or better. These claims were independently verified by Dr. Luis von Ahn (inventor of CAPTCHA, Associate Professor at CMU), Ray Kurzweil (creator of the first text-to-speech systems and AI researcher at Google X), and Dr. Bruno Olshausen (Director of the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, Professor at UC Berkeley).

Vicarious has indicated that its AI was not specifically designed to complete CAPTCHAs and its success at the task is a product of its advanced vision system. Because Vicarious’s algorithms are based on insights from the human brain, it is also able to recognize photographs, videos, and other visual data.[7]


  1. ^ Ha, Anthony. "Early Facebook Executives Back AI Startup Vicarious Systems". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Ha, Anthony. "Early Facebook execs back artificial-intelligence startup Vicarious Systems". Venture Beat. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mia. "Vicarious Grabs A Huge, New $40M Growth Round To Advance Artificial Intelligence". TechCrunch. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai. "Artificial Intelligence Startup Vicarious Grabs Funding From Bezos, Benioff And Jerry Yang". TechCrunch. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "Captcha test 'cracked' by US firm Vicarious". BBC News. 28 October 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Summers, Nick (28 October 2013). "Vicarious claims its AI software can crack up to 90% of CAPTCHAs offered by Google, Yahoo and PayPal". Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Hof, Robert (28 October 2013). "AI Startup Vicarious Claims Milestone In Quest To Build A Brain: Cracking CAPTCHA". Forbes. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 

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