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CTECH: From Gaza to CES: When Israel's tech sector balances both worlds

11/1/24

Originally published in CTECH.

Some of Israel’s biggest tech companies are currently demonstrating their products and services at CES 2024. Despite the ongoing war with Hamas, some founders who enlisted in reserve duty following the events of October 7 have found themselves now in Nevada, flown in with permission from the IDF on a special flight from El Al.

One of the founders is Visionary.ai CEO Oren Debbi, who just last week was in Gaza serving in the IDF helping with helicopter rescue missions of Israeli soldiers. “It's a complete 180 [change]”, he told CTech. “Definitely different paces - can you even comprehend where I was last Wednesday and where I am today? But I've been so busy and it's been crazy.”

Oren Visionary CES
(Photo: N/A)Debbi presenting Visionary.ai at CES 2024

Visionary.ai was founded by Debbi alongside Yoav Taieb, who serves as the company’s CTO. It is at CES presenting its camera technology that is capable of removing blur and noise from images, as well as helping devices achieve ‘true night vision’ using its AI software image signal processor. This year marks the first time the company is unveiling its solution capable of running on a mobile device and also celebrating a partnership with Qualcomm, meaning its software may eventually become “a standard feature in every phone inside everyone’s pocket.”

At the show. Visionary.ai’s demo shows its performance in extreme low light, and visitors are invited to take the 'Low Light Challenge' and test out their camera's video quality against its own.

Debbi was able to receive a temporary release from Gaza due to special permission granted by his direct officer to attend CES in Las Vegas. According to Debbi, the once-a-year high-tech El Al charted plane carried “a lot of familiar faces” to Las Vegas, but he only came across one other reservist who also received permission to travel. It is expected that he will return after the weekend and continue his service.

“The last three months have been more action than my entire army service put together by far, and it was a complete turn of events,” he continued, describing how he and his unit face the threat of danger as they airlift soldiers from the battleground to safe medical assistance. “I don't think anybody expected what was going to happen, but it's amazing to see how we’re able to save lives.”

Other Israeli companies currently presenting at CES include Hailo, which specializes in AI processors for edge devices; ARTI, which develops augmented reality glasses that can add 3D graphics to a video stream, autonomous vehicle tech companies Mobileye and Innoviz, and CorrActions, which can determine people’s cognitive states by monitoring data from motion sensors in cars helping prevent drunk or impaired driving. In total, roughly 4,000 companies and 1,200 startups are taking part - 11 of which are Israeli.

CES 2024 comes at a time when Israel is not only fighting a physical war in Gaza but also as it battles online backlash from some of its harshest critics. College campuses across the U.S. and the streets of London have seen hundreds of thousands of protestors calling for a ceasefire, but also going as far as calling for outright intifada (“uprising”), and the total end of the Jewish state. This year, Israeli companies must once again demonstrate the ability to operate in challenging times while also navigating diplomacy with customers and clients overseas.

“It's not something that I bring up, being in the army and the situation in Israel,” Debbi explained. “We're talking business and there are just so many customers with too much interest now, I don't think it affected the business in any way… "I think it's a testament to the resilience of Israel and the startup mentality. You see how  despite everything, everyone's busy, focusing on building and growth. I think that's a big part of us being at CES. We're fighting a war, but we're also focused on building the future of our economy,” he concluded.


Oren Visionary