Picovoice Starts Licensing Wake Word Models for Free, Raises $500,000 Investment
Interactive voice tech startup Picovoice is sharing its platform publicly and making its wake word models for Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant free for companies to license. Device manufacturers can then both offer their own voice assistant built on Picovoice’s platform and have the ability to connect with the most popular voice assistants without having to pay to make their device understand those wake words. Picovoice also announced a new $500,000 investment from Founders’ Co-op, known for investing in voice AI startups like KITT.AI.
Picovoice provides a platform for building custom wake words that companies like LG and Whirlpool integrate into their products as an alternative to Amazon or Google’s services. The voice engine can generate custom-designed assistants for very specific use cases, with commands for activities like washing clothes or turning on the microwave. Picovoice makes a point of ensuring the voice assistants all run on the device without needing to send any data to the cloud. The on-edge approach means the manufacturers don’t have to rely on remote servers to add voice interactions and don’t need to worry about the data sent to the cloud being compromised. All of the data is kept local and private.
“Purpose-made and branded voice assistants are the next logical step in the evolution of voice as an interface,” Picovoice CEO Alireza Kenarsari said in a statement. ” A voice-enabled elevator doesn’t need to look up fun facts on Wikipedia. It only needs to understand which floor to go to.”
That doesn’t preclude a company from making Alexa or Google Assitant available on the device; it just doesn’t have to do so automatically. Licensing the wake word models for free will likely help draw in more potential clients who want to try the platform out before signing up for the full customization experience. Device makers can get both the hyper-specific voice assistant and access to the bigger voice assistants and their capabilities and with a much less expensive way of connecting to Alexa or Google Assistant.
“But if one has an urge to enable a full conversation with the elevator, with the flexibility of the Picovoice platform, developers still have the option to add an assistant like Alexa into the experience alongside their Picovoice assistant,” Kenarsari said. “It is with this vision of an open and interoperable future that Picovoice decided to make wake word models freely available for all major voice assistants, something that enterprises pay upwards of 5-figures for today.”
Picovoice has been growing quickly in the three years since its founding. The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has opened up new avenues of interest in its technology since it can offer a hands-free alternative to operating devices like elevators and intercoms. The startup has also created new ways to demonstrate how its platform can be customized, as with the Picovoice Selfie web app. The website provides an entirely voice-based way to take photos, adjusting different filters and timers without touching the mouse or keyboard.