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Native voice, a startup developing an SDK for audio device makers to integrate third-party voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, today announced it has closed a $ 14 million funding round led by Gutbrain Ventures, PBJ Capital , Signal Peak Ventures with participation from Revel Partners, Ideaship, TechNexus and others. According to CEO John Goscha, the product will be used to propel the business to more devices, expand its range of voice services, and prove and evolve its go-to-market model.
According to Statista, by 2024, digital voice assistants will be installed on 8.4 billion smartphones, tablets, computers, appliances and cars. Native Voice aims to provide a layer between users and brands with voice assistants, working with brands to bring their assistants to its platform, and with hardware manufacturers to bring its platform to their devices.
As Goscha explained, Native Voice connects with multiple assistants and their skills, applications and actions while acting as the library for brands deploying their own voice solutions. With Native Voice, users can unlock access to branded voice services such as “Hey Spotify” and “Hey Uber,” as well as Tap-to-Talk functionality and always-on-call alarm clock capabilities. on smartphones, headphones, smart speakers, and cars. .
“I’ve been interested in the voice, downright obsessed with it, for years. I saw a technological catalyst – voice technology had improved a lot and it was no longer just simple use cases like “what’s the weather like” and “set a timer”… I also saw a market catalyst where voice had become the fastest adopted technology in human history, ”Goscha told VentureBeat via email. “Brands had also started adopting voice as the next interface and creating their own voice service in the same way they had created their own app with the advent of the smartphone. These two catalysts made me decide it was time to start a business in space.
In a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation, 90% of consumers reported using a voice assistant (72%), with adoption driven primarily by younger users and households with children. The company concluded that to successfully capitalize on technology, organizations must understand the strengths and growth opportunities of the assistant, in addition to what consumers need to trust the technology.
Native Voice, which says it works with brands in the fitness, retail and smart home markets, is available on Android through an app (with iOS coming soon) and integrated into four “hearable” Bluetooth devices. “. So far, it supports Alexa, Siri, and Spotify, providing access to music, news, podcast, radio, weather, fitness, meditation, and personal finance services.
Native Voice somewhat duplicates the efforts of Open Voice Network (OVN), an alliance backed by the Linux Foundation that advocates the adoption of open standards for voice assistant applications in automobiles, smartphones, smart home devices, and more. With founding members Target, Schwarz Gruppe, Wegmans Food Markets, Microsoft, Veritone, Deutsche Telekom and others, OVN’s goal – much like Amazon’s Voice interoperability initiative – is to standardize the development and use of voice assistant and conversational agent systems that use technologies such as automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, advanced dialogue management and machine learning.
But Native Voice’s unique proposition for brands is access to usage data. Goscha says companies on the platform own consumer data, so they can see how users are interacting with their brand as well as ways they might improve the experience.
“I thought the future of voice should be more like the Internet and less like AOL, where users can interact with the voice service that best meets their particular needs. I found it amazing that when brands create their own voice service focused on their area of expertise, the user experience can be so much better, ”said Goscha. “Brands like Bank of America and Spotify were investing tens of millions of dollars to build their own voice service, but they found it difficult to access the more than 400 brands of audio devices. And audio device makers wanted to have all voice services on their device, but they struggled to make deals with each brand one by one and integrate one at a time. We needed a software layer – an infrastructure if you will – connecting these two groups. “
With the funding announced today, bringing the total for Denver, Colo.-Based Native Voice to $ 14.4 million, the company plans to add five more people to its team of 30, a mix of full-time and part-time employees.
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