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TV AI Startup Disruptel Acquired by Samba TV

Television tech developer Samba TV has acquired TV AI startup Disruptel for an undisclosed sum. Samba plans to incorporate Disruptel and its connected TV technology into its own platform, including Disruptel’s context-sensitive voice assistant capable of answering questions about who and what is on the screen at any moment and linking to commerce platforms for people who want to buy something they see in a show or commercial.

Disruptel Samba

Disruptel’s AI can navigate content and use machine learning to better understand what people are viewing. The company’s Deep Frame feature gives its AI contextual awareness, allowing it to answer questions like a human watching along and looking things up online. For instance, it could answer questions as vague as “who’s wearing the red dress?” or “what brand of shoes is the guy on the left wearing?” during a scene. Disruptel’s tech is also designed for use with advertising, answering questions about visible products, and carrying out transactions upon request.

That technology will now be incorporated into Samba TV’s AI services. Samba TV’s platform is best known for embedding a “smart pause” function in TVs to automatically show information about people on-screen along with ads whenever the content is paused. The full Samba AI system is scheduled for unveiling at CES in January before rolling out to manufacturers later next year.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming nearly every aspect of our lives today, and we are excited about its growing relevance in television. From the same company that introduced content recognition algorithms in Connected TVs, we are excited to share how AI will unlock a more engaging viewing experience for the content we love.” Samba TV CEO Ashwin Navin said. “This acquisition brings us closer to the living room viewing experience we have all been dreaming about, where consumers are empowered to go deeper into the content they are viewing, advertisers will gain greater insights into the value of their sponsorships and TV manufacturers will capture new opportunities to differentiate their incredible products.”

Disruptel had previously scored a major deal with TCL to embed a voice assistant in its future smart televisions, though how the acquisition would affect it isn’t clear. The St. Louis-based Disruptel in 2017 and raised about $2.1 million from investors including Siri and Viv Labs founder Adam Cheyer. As new and enhanced smart TVs continue to roll out from the big voice assistant brands like Amazon, Google, and Apple, TV and set-top makers are relying on companies like SoundHound, Samba, Nuance, and others to give them a competitive edge.

“AI is the future of TV, and Samba TV shares our vision for what that will look like,” Disruptel CEO Alex Quinn said. “With more TV data, in more countries, and from more TV brands than any other company in the world, Samba AI is the perfect home for our machine learning expertise so that we can be in a position to lead the industry in AI.”

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