Chinese Speech Recognition Startup AISpeech Raises $58M
Chinese speech technology startup AISpeech Company has closed a 410 million yuan ($58 million) Series E funding round led by CTC Capital partners. AISpeech develops vocal biometrics tech and created a voice assistant platform that can identify a speaker and analyze their tone of voice.
AISpeech provides natural language processing for a variety of smart devices in the Internet of Things. The company produces its own chipset as an alternative to those made by tech giants like Baidu or Google. Last year, AISpeech debuted its new TH1520 voice recognition AI chip. Tech firms like Alibaba, Xiaomi, and Lenovo all use AISpeech’s technology in some of their products. AISpeech plans to up its research and production capacity with the new funding and is specifically interested in digitizing services for the government and finance industry, as well as boosting its presence in cars. That fits with the inclusion of Goldstone Investment and BAIC Capital in the funding as BAIC is part of BAIC Group, an automobile manufacturer owned by the Chinese government. The startup has raised about $179.2 million in total, but, despite the new investment, China Money Network reports that AISpeech is making plans for an IPO.
The demand for vocal biometrics and speech recognition has grown quickly as more people and companies start using voice technology. Being able to distinguish among speakers and figuring out their emotional state is useful in customer services, meeting transcriptions, and a wide swath of enterprise needs. That’s why AISpeech can draw so much investment and why a startup like Voci Technologies gets acquired for $59 million.
On the other hand, concern about vocal fraud has slowed down adoption, according to some surveys, which makes technology that can better assess identity even more crucial. Deepfakes, artificially generated speech masquerading as a particular human voice, are getting better as voice technology overall becomes more sophisticated. People don’t want their bank account or business data hijacked by someone with sophisticated audio software. Consumer voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are often at the center of those concerns. These platforms are getting better at distinguishing between voices, allowing a household to access individual accounts on different apps without having to sign in and out every time. Google recently improved its Vocal Match feature for identifying speakers by voice partly as a way to make people feel more comfortable with the concept. Technology that reassures people about their vocal ID safety will be attractive to any industry utilizing the technology.