Synapse raises $6M to bring neural net weapon detection to x-ray machines

With all of the advances made by computer vision tech in the past few years, it might seem a little crazy that so much of the x-ray security equipment being used at sensitive locations is leaning so heavily on human workers to stop weapons from slipping through.

Synapse Technology is creating computer vision tech that can interface with existing x-ray machines through a hardware add-on that doesn’t void the warranty but does add a neural net-powered assistant to lend a second set of eyes to the items being scanned.

The startup has announced the close of a $6 million seed round led by Founders Fund, Neo, 8VC and Village Global.

While the company’s largely focused on security checkpoints for “critical infrastructure” sites like government buildings or schools, the company has key interests in getting their tech into airports, another clear market for the tech. Synapse is running a pilot program at Tokyo’s Narita airport and the company says that the scanners are pulling in 14 percent more prohibited items as a result of using their technology.

The startup has helped scan more than 5 million bags to date and is pushing to expand the scope of what they can detect. The company has been performing lab tests to detect 3D-printed weapons with their technology.

“[X-ray machines] are relying on human beings which are just fundamentally limited,” Synapse president Ian Cinnamon told TechCrunch in an interview. “With our software and AI, they can now automatically be detecting weapons with a much higher degree of accuracy.

Synapse’s tech isn’t analyzing luggage to make sure you aren’t packing toiletries over 3 oz. in your carry-on. For now the team’s really focused on detecting the more high-profile threats, such as guns and sharp objects like knives. Beyond improving the quality of life for airport security workers, the company says that their AI tech makes it easier for them to detect objects behind large electronics, meaning that Synapse tech could one day let people leave their laptops in bags without compromising security.

For airports, the list of prohibited items stretches into the dozens, so Synapse isn’t really looking to replace workers but give them fewer things to worry about. “The more that our algorithms take on, the better that humans are able to perform,” Cinnamon tells us.

The startup will be using this funding to get its product into more critical infrastructure locations and ramp up hiring.