Voice Tech Startup Voiceitt Raises $10M to Help People with Speech Impairments Talk to Voice Assistants and Other People
Israeli speech recognition technology startup Voiceitt has closed a $10 million Series A funding round led by Viking Maccabee Ventures. An Amazon Alexa Fund portfolio company, Voiceitt is the developer of a software platform designed to help people with atypical and impaired speech communicate with voice assistants and other people using real-time clarification of their words. The company plans to use the new funding to further develop the software and work on incorporating the technology into existing voice platforms.
Voiceitt’s tech is aimed at generating an AI that understands what people who struggle to communicate verbally are trying to say. The user trains the automatic speech recognition program in their unique speech pattern, improving comprehension with practice. The program can then act as an interpreter to other voice assistants that might normally be unable to figure out what the user is saying. Voiceitt can do the same for when the user wants to communicate with other people verbally, becoming a translator of sorts. The potential communication opportunities go beyond just friends and family. The combination of social distancing and telemedicine doctor appointments makes tech like Voiceitt’s especially helpful for doctors who may not be able to understand everything a patient with impaired speech is saying over a video conference call.
“Voiceitt provides a new dimension of independence and quality of life for people with speech and motor disabilities, and a compelling tool for those who care for and about them,” Voiceitt co-founder and CEO Danny Weissberg said in a statement. “With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our objectives are not only to support the individual’s in-person communication, but also to assist healthcare professionals and support the continuum of care for their patients.”
The eight-year-old startup has now raised more than $15 million all told and employs a team of 25 in an Israeli and a U.S. office. Voiceitt was part of the 2018 class in Amazon’s Alexa Accelerator, which led to the Alexa Fund investment. portfolio company. The new funding comes from a mix of non-profits like AARP and The Disability Opportunity Fund as well as venture capital groups including Cahn Capital, Microsoft’s M12, AMIT Technion, and Connecticut Innovations. The startup has already been working with healthcare services, speech therapists, and organizations created to help its potential clients, such as the Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities of Tennessee.
Voiceitt is part of a growing ecosystem of companies and programs working to make voice technology more accessible to people with disabilities and expand the ways voice tech is helpful to that community. Startups including Open Style Lab and K4Connect, which recently closed a $21 million funding round, are working on augmenting voice-enabled technology for easier use by people with disabilities, for instance. Meanwhile, Voiceitt’s investor Alexa just launched an Accessibility Hub specifically to showcase its own accessibility features. And Google has been sprinting to make Google Assistant as accessible as possible. The company rapid-fire launched visual context to the Voice Access feature in Android, voice cues in Google Maps to provide directions to the visually impaired, and Action Blocks, which lets users make a single button or voice command that can activate a series of tasks by the voice assistant. Google is also a more direct rival for Voiceitt through Project Euphonia, which works to train voice assistants to understand those with speech impairments. Voiceitt’s goals are more expansive, however, and it now has the capital to pursue them more quickly.
“As we continue our growth, we are committed to our mission of making speech accessible to all,” Voiceitt co-founder and executive vice president Sara Smolley said in a statement. ” Our long-term vision is to integrate Voiceitt’s customizable speech recognition with mainstream voice technologies to enable environmental control through a universally accessible voice system. Voiceitt’s versatile technology can be applied in a range of voice-enabled applications in diverse contexts and environments.”