RALEIGH – Get ready, robots are coming.

In as little as five years, says one Raleigh expert, these artificial intelligent (AI) assistants will be working side-by-side with you, giving you “superhuman” powers by performing support tasks and processing the ever-multiplying reams of data that threatens productivity.

However, these robots won’t resemble the clunky Star Wars “droids” depicted in Hollywood films. Instead, they will blend into the environment, much along the lines of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.

“I have a prototype in my pocket already,” said Igor Jablokov, chief executive and founder of Pryon, a Raleigh-based AI startup that is working to bring these “robots” to the public. “The modality that I think people will be consuming this in are set-top boxes, conference phones, in next-generation augmented goggles that are still coming. It becomes invisible and everywhere with you.”

Considering his former successes, his firm is well placed to be a serious player in this space. Back in 2011, he sold his former company, Yap, to Amazon. Its technology is now incorporated into smart speakers Alexa and Echo.

“We know how to see past the horizon,” the veteran tech entrepreneur told WRAL TechWire.

Igor Jablokov, chief executive and founder of Pryon, at Innovate Raleigh on Thursday. Credit: Chantal Allam

Jablokov gave a sneak peek at what the future has in store for us when he presented as part of Innovate Raleigh on Thursday. It’s an annual summit bringing together some 300 entrepreneurs, small business owners and economic development leaders to discuss emerging trends that will inevitably affect the city.

But the big question remains: With this emerging technology, will people lose their jobs?

“I don’t think so. Our jobs are just going to become different,” he said, adding: “Future work is is not AI replacing us, but augmenting us. [It will allow] us to be in 500 places at the same time and yet we’re still the source of inspiration, innovation, decision-making, prowess and creativity. It’s using the machines for what they’re best for, and humans for what they are best for as well – in partnership.”

Founded in 2017, Pryon has since gone on to raise close to $25 million in capital and is growing exponentially.

As Jablokov recounted, “we’re hiring like gangbusters.”

Backers of the most recent round earlier this year included the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, a creation of AOL founder Steve Case’s Revolution, along with Breyer Capital and Greycroft as well as previous investor Digital Alpha Advisors.

Triangle entrepreneur and investor Scot Wingo also listed Pryon as one of his Triangle “tweeners,” a company he expects to deliver strong growth.

“Frankly speaking, it’s very important for RTP an the region in general to have companies like mine in their backyard,” said Jablokov.

“Most people didn’t realize that it was a Charlotte-based startup – [Yap] – that became the nucleus for Alexa that created this new fortune for Amazon that numbered in the billions of dollars.

“If you think about why it’s important to be responsive to innovation ecosystems, we’re farm-to-table AI technology. We can affect large company outcomes.”

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