The Ulm-based entrepreneurs Martin Bach and Dr Stefan Hörmann are now officially champions. Not only have the graduates of Ulm University brought in a million euros in funding from Invest BW with their start-up company aurivus, now they’ve also been crowned as “AI Champions Baden-Württemberg”. The engineers have developed some artificial intelligence (AI) that creates realistic 3D building models from point clouds of laser scans. Their newest business idea can even help save energy.
Aurivus’ story of success began at the Institute of Measurement, Control and Microtechnology at Ulm University. Here, Dr Stefan Hörmann and Martin Bach performed research on automated driving. In order for a vehicle to be able to navigate through traffic without a driver, it depends on reliable monitoring of its surroundings, whereby laser scanners and neural networks play an important role. Through a contact in the construction industry, it struck the researcher duo from Ulm that architectural firms could also stand to benefit from intelligent environment detection and analysis. The laser scanners used to survey buildings are similar to those used in automated vehicles. Up to now, however, architectural firms have had to rely on sketching by hand - a task often requiring weeks of work - in order to create building models. Software to convert the scanner data into models did not exist.
Hörmann and Bach decided to transfer their knowledge from automated driving to construction drawing. For automated vehicles, so-called neural networks are used – a specific kind of AI – which independently create models of the environment from corresponding data. “For the construction industry, we trained this kind of AI to search through 3D laser scans of buildings and to combine billions of scan points into a few objects within a matter of minutes. Examples range from windows and pipes to other surfaces. This reduction in complexity saves a lot of time and money for construction drawing”, the engineers relate. And thus the idea for the start-up company aurivus was born.
Support from the University and the entrepreneur fund
Dr Stefan Hörmann and Martin Bach have been receiving funding from the director of the MCM Institute, Professor Klaus Dietmayer, and the municipal fund for entrepreneurs, TFU (TechnologieFörderungs Unternehmen), since 2019. Just a year later, the two entrepreneurs were honoured with the CyberOne Award for their business idea. The popularity of the aurivus platform is proof that it fills a gap in the market. More than 600 experts from around the world in the fields of architecture, construction drawing and engineering have already registered.
A current application example even leads the entrepreneurs back to their alma mater. At Ulm University, water damage needs to be repaired. The impacted room was scanned and analysed with the aurivus AI. Based on the resulting model, the refurbishing can now be efficiently planned.
Thanks to funding of a million euros from Invest BW, the start-up company can now tackle its next project: “In the future, the aurivus AI should be able to understand LiDAR data recorded by a smartphone in order to create room plans and for example to conduct energy analyses. In this way, energy saving potential can be discovered by a smartphone”, explain Bach and Hörmann. The end of the fields of application for their artificial intelligence is nowhere in sight.
AI Champions BW
With the competition “AI Champions BW”, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Tourism would like to provide a stage for innovations in the field of artificial intelligence. The competition was held for the first time in 2020. So far, a total of 18 AI champions in Baden-Württemberg have received the distinction for their presented solutions. The virtual awards ceremony was held in Stuttgart in mid-July. At the event, opened by Minister Dr Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, nine companies and research institutes were honoured for either developing or launching innovative AI-based products, services or business models.
Text and mediacontact: Annika Bingmann
Translation: Kate Gaugler