(Image source: SoundHound.)
SoundHound Inc. (Santa Clara), a provider voice-enabled AI and conversational intelligence technologies, has announced $75 million in new funding. The round includes a strategic group of investors including Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. Other investors NVIDIA GPU Ventures, Samsung Catalyst Fund, Nomura Holdings, Inc.,., and RSI Fund I (a VC arm of Recruit Holdings). Other new investors such as Kleiner Perkins, SharesPost 100 Fund, and MKaNN are joining previous investors Global Catalyst Partners, Walden Venture Capital, and TransLink Capital. SoundHound Inc. has raised $115 million in funding to date.
The new funding will be used to accelerate growth, invest in international expansion and realize the company’s vision of Collective AI through its Houndify platform, according to the vendor. The vendor characterizes Houndify as the first independent AI platform that enables developers and business owners to deploy it anywhere and retain control of their brand and users, while differentiating and innovating. Houndify provides all the technology ingredients necessary for voice and AI integration, including the world’s fastest speech recognition, the most sophisticated natural language understanding, easy to use developer tools, knowledge graphs, and a large and rapidly growing number of domains, according to the vendor.
The vendor places the funding round in the context of a projected $14.4 trillion Internet of Things market, which is driving an increasing need for practical and innovative AI technologies, including natural language processing and voice interfaces.
Potential to Transform Insurers’ Customer Interactions
Sound-recognition and sound-search technologies have the potential to transform the way carriers interact with their customers, according to Karlyn Carnahan, Research Director, Celent. “Whether serving as a data collection device for a new business application—taking in spoken information and using that in combination with an advice engine to help a prospect craft the optimal set of coverages—or at the time of first notice of loss to rapidly deliver services and advice, this technology will allow customers to interact in a way that is easier and more relevant for a mobile device oriented world.”
“The ability to search recordings will be particularly helpful when it comes to claims,” Carnahan adds. “This set of horizontal technologies has potentially significant application in the insurance vertical.”
One of the advantages of Houndify pitched by SoundHound is its architecture for collaborative intelligence called “Collective AI,” which the vendor describes as a powerful mechanism that facilitates collaboration among developers in a conversational intelligence environment. Collective AI is designed to enable developers to extend the functionality of existing knowledge domains without needing access to or a full understanding of the underlying libraries.
Houndify’s Collective AI architecture currently provides access to knowledge and data from Yelp, Uber and Expedia, as well as over 100 other domains such as weather, stocks, sports, local businesses, flights, hotels, mortgage, and even interactive games. Houndify also provides a large number of domains specifically targeted for the automotive industry.
“We are at the inflection point of our long-term vision that every product or service needs to have a smart voice-enabled interface, and consumers have increasingly high expectations for this requirement, beyond simple commands or skills,” comments Keyvan Mohajer, co-founder and CEO, SoundHound Inc. “With this strategic investment, we will bring the power of the proprietary technology behind our independent Houndify platform to even more users globally and amplify the rollout of our Collective AI architecture.”
In addition to advancing this vision of Collective AI, the funding will be used to further drive international expansion, particularly to Asia and Europe. Several of SoundHound Inc.’s strategic investors will be shipping products or services that take advantage of the company’s Houndify AI platform and its patented Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies.
Within the first year of its launch, over 20,000 developers have registered to use the Houndify platform for their products, including strategic partners Samsung ARTIK Smart IoT platform, and NVIDIA, which brings Houndify’s large vocabulary speech recognition and natural language understanding to cars even without cloud connection by utilizing NVIDIA GPUs, the vendor says.
“AI and deep learning are fueling all areas of our business, allowing customers to tackle previously unsolvable computing problems,” comments Jeff Herbst, VP, Business Development, NVIDIA. “Combining Houndify’s Collective AI technology with NVIDIA’s deep learning platform enables an exceptional solution to understanding complex natural conversation that scales rapidly and seamlessly into new products and applications.”
“Samsung Catalyst Fund accelerates technological innovation by inspiring the brightest minds and ideas and providing access to Samsung’s global resources and expertise,” comments Shankar Chandran, managing director and head of Samsung Catalyst Fund. “We believe the best innovations occur when ideas are shared through open ecosystems and collaboration. That is at the heart of what the team at SoundHound Inc. is building with their vision of Collective AI, which provides the tools and platform for developers to build more intelligent solutions easily and rapidly.”