Imagine a cutting-edge research facility—think Lockheed’s Skunkworks or XEROX’s PARC—where engineers and data scientists spend their days designing and testing aerial drones, developing the latest visual AI technologies, and implementing new predictive maintenance approaches. And all with the goal of pushing these advanced technologies out into the real world.
In April of 2021, SparkCognition launched a bold new idea—creating an advanced aerial/terrestrial integration facility dedicated to developing, prototyping, testing, and showcasing new AI-based technologies for implementation in the physical world. Known as HyperWerx, the facility has since become the cornerstone of the company’s AI engineering and implementation work, delivering technologies that range from autonomous drones and robotics to visual AI and predictive maintenance of complex systems. Sitting on 50 acres just west of Austin, HyperWerx team members spend their days exploring the many facets of AI capabilities, a myriad of applications designed to solve real-world problems in commercial and defense industries.
“We can do it all here.”
HyperWerx mechanical engineer Daniel Susca joined SparkCognition four years ago, well before the facility opened, so he knows the history better than most.
“We were an applied solutions team back then, working on drone projects, demo pieces, that sort of thing,” he says. “Since the creation of HyperWerx, we’ve really gotten into more customer-facing projects, for example integrating Visual AI Advisor (VAIA) technology into various SparkCognition products. This past year and a half, our team has shifted to supporting lots of demos for customers, developing new projects, and lots of VAIA testing, developing, and demoing. We can do it all here.”
He goes on to describe the team’s agility and close working relationship.
“We do everything on VAIA these days. We did all the testing that proved to management that it works. We got our faces scanned, lit fires, drove cars in front of cameras, you name it. With all the events we have coming up, we’re helping sales/marketing make those events happen, running demos, and staging everything. When I started working here a year and a half ago, if you’d told me I’d be doing all the cutting-edge things we’re doing today, I’d not have believed it. I’m just riding the wave at this point. Whatever exciting new tech comes along, whatever customer challenges arise, we’ll figure it out. One thing’s for sure—I’m never bored.”
All about agility
Sometimes, projects that start out headed in one direction, or are intended for one customer or partner, end up going down a completely different path. It’s part of the whole agility ethos that characterizes everything about HyperWerx. “Each time a new customer comes in, and one of our executives asks if we can develop a new demo for that industry, it’s also allowing us to put another capability in our back pocket for use with other potential clients or industries,” says Susca. “Seems like a lot of the time, once we’ve developed a new capability for one application, we then get to translate it to lots of other things we’re working on because it ends up being quite similar. It’s been cool to watch that process happen again and again. What starts as a specific demo request for one customer ends up being something we can make use of elsewhere.”
One of the organizations HyperWerx works closely with is our subsidiary SparkCognition Government Systems (SGS). Logan Jones, SGS general manager and president, points to the practical applications that emerge from the team’s work. “Real innovation comes from having a concept and getting out and testing it,” Jones says. “Ultimately, this brings the idea of AI’s transformational impact off of paper and into the real world, hand-in-hand with our customers and partners.”
A sentiment echoed by HyperWerx chief designer Milton Lopez.
“HyperWerx is a place where an engineer, a data scientist, or a subject matter expert can let their imagination run wild. We can develop and validate a prototype, test the outcomes, and then deploy it in the real world. It’s the opportunity for us to develop these solutions and go out and change the earth to be what that scenario requires. The work that we’re doing here really matters.”
Another important partner of HyperWerx is Boeing, who teamed up with SparkCognition to form the SkyGrid venture, a program that uses blockchain technology to more effectively manage the complexities of airspace that’s populated by both traditional aircraft and drones. “As technology progresses exponentially, our physical world is increasingly intersecting with the digital world, and exploring the fusion of hardware and software has never been a greater imperative,” says Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Phantom Works at The Boeing Company, and chairman of the board of directors at SparkCognition. “With the launch of HyperWerx and its work with SkyGrid, SparkCognition is proving its ongoing commitment to bringing the potential of AI to life, solving real-world challenges facing its customers and partners.”
Susca couldn’t agree more. “We’re going to keep up our development and implementation pace; it’s what we’re good at. The driving idea of HyperWerx is that we can rapidly develop projects and show that something is possible. That’s what gets people excited and gets customers coming in the door.”
“One of the best things about HyperWerx is that it keeps one area in the company where there’s always a start-up mindset, regardless of how much the company grows and becomes more corporate, customer-oriented, and process-focused. HyperWerx will continue to be that weird little microcosm that’s just running and gunning to get new things done. I feel like any good company that’s trying to advance its tech needs to have that. That’s why Lockheed has Skunkworks with all its crazy projects. We’re the skunkworks for SparkCognition.”
Leading-edge capabilities, with more yet to come
SparkCognition chief science officer Bruce Porter, Ph.D., sums up the capability set provided by HyperWerx.
“It opens up the kind of innovation to discover new approaches to applying AI in the physical world.”
The vision for the entire HyperWerx campus and its dedicated team of engineers and data scientists is to create an AI ecosystem that allows customers and partners to focus on exploring the art of the possible with AI and other related technologies. In the future, SparkCognition will continue to develop the HyperWerx campus, adding more facilities and innovative capabilities to support the vision of SparkCognition and its partners.
Reflecting on the year and a half that has passed since the launch of HyperWerx, SparkCognition founder and CEO Amir Husain observes, “When you work with technology as nebulous as software, it can be challenging to visualize exactly how AI and physical systems will work together. Beyond that, it is simply not possible to develop new physical applications without the experimentation, testing, and safety validation process. With that in mind, we conceived HyperWerx—a place where we can truly explore the interplay between AI software and physical systems, which I believe will be a core driver in shaping the future of society.”
To learn more about the HyperWerx facility, visit us at https://www.sparkcognition.com/about/hyperwerx/.