Otter Raises $10M to Bring AI Transcription Service to Japan
Transcription AI startup Otter.ai has closed a $10 million funding round led by Japanese mobile operator NTT DOCOMO. DOCOMO and Otter will partner to expand Otter’s speech-to-text technology to Japan, integrating it into DOCOMO’s Mirai Translation service.
English Transcription, Japanese Translation
Otter, formerly known as AISense before rebranding to match its flagship product, has raised $23 million since it was founded four years ago. The new funding includes participation from Fusion Fund, GGV, Dragon, Fund, and several other investors. Otter’s service, which began operating in 2018, is built on the idea of rapidly transcribing voice conversations to make them searchable like a text document. The AI is focused on understanding what words are being spoken and who is speaking, turning long conversations and meetings into text. The specialized nature of the tech is in contrast to how standard voice assistant AI has to parse what is said for meaning in order to respond to it.
Otter’s platform has grown into consumer and enterprise branches since it launched. Dropbox and Zoom both have arrangements with Otter to handles transcription of audio on their platforms in the U.S. The partnership with DOCOMO provides a new opportunity for the enterprise side in Japan. One way to use Otter being piloted right now is in the online English classes in Japan run by Berlitz. The Otter Voice Meeting Notes app helps students search through the voice lessons for areas they want to work on, without having to manually hunt through recordings.
“The Japanese market values high quality detailed meeting notes and Otter.ai’s highly accurate AI-powered note taker overcomes language barriers and improves the operating efficiency of Japanese companies with global operations,” Tomoyoshi Oono, a DOCOMO senior vice president, said in a statement. “There is a large business market opportunity for Otter.ai and DOCOMO’s translation service.”
Transcribing voice into text is a vital part of the voice tech industry and one whose value is growing. That gives Otter competition in the form of startups like Fireflies.ai, which closed a $5 million funding round at the end of last year, and Voicea, which has raised $20 million for its own meeting transcription AI assistant before being acquired by Cisco in September 2019. Enterprise services from Microsoft and Google are also starting to bring transcription into the forefront of their services.
Then there’s the medical side of automatic transcription. Amazon, Nuance, and other companies are bringing out new ways for doctors to lighten their paperwork load using transcription and analysis AIs. Each service has its own approach to the central task of turning words into text, but funding and partnership news like this paints a clear picture of how this aspect of voice tech is going to integrate into more enterprises.