2021 Speech Industry Award Winner: SoundHound Feeds the Voice-Enabled Drive-Through

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Speech technology has started to transform drive-through and drive-in interactions for quick-service restaurant chains, and Santa Clara, Calif.-based SoundHound is at the forefront of that innovation.

Through a partnership with Mastercard announced last September, SoundHound’s Houndify’s Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies will enable drive-through ordering systems to understand complex orders, substitutions, and special requests. Patrons can order what they want with natural voice queries and confirm the accuracy of their orders. Houndify’s conversational intelligence maintains context without requiring the user to repeat previous inputs.

Mastercard is deploying these new solutions with leading retail, sports, entertainment, and hospitality partners, including Circle K, Delaware North, Dunkin’, and White Castle.

“Consumers today believe voice ordering makes their experiences more convenient and less stressful, and we look forward to helping Mastercard deliver frictionless service, convenience, and customer safety,” said Amir Arbabi, vice president of business development at SoundHound, in a statement.

SoundHound’s Houndify platform also found its way into the new Honda e electric car and the top-selling Honda Jazz in Europe. The Honda Personal Assistant—powered by Houndify—gives drivers an in-car conversational interface to control their environment and access navigation, entertainment, and information hands-free. The personal assistant supports French, German, Spanish, Italian, and English.

Through Houndify’s voice AI, drivers and passengers can ask Honda Personal Assistant even the most complex questions, such as “OK Honda, show me restaurants within five kilometers, except French and Japanese ones, that have Wi-Fi, have at least three stars, and are open past 10 p.m.” Houndify also allows for follow-up questions, such as “Does it have parking?” The natural language interface can proactively prompt for the next step, like directions to the destination. Deep navigation integration allows drivers to ask other follow-up questions, such as “Are there any convenience stores along the way?”

Houndify is also now an integral part of Snapchat’s Scan platform, which lets Snapchatters learn more about what’s around them. The Voice Scan feature lets them find the right Lens to augment their faces or the world around them just by asking.

“We are thrilled to be one of Snapchat’s first Scan platform partners and voice-enable one of their most powerful features,” said James Hom, cofounder and vice president of products at SoundHound, in a statement when the service was launched a year ago. “With hundreds of thousands of Lenses available in the app, being able to just ask for a feature offers a powerful new way to discover new Lenses with the added convenience of being hands-free.”

To access the new Voice Scan feature within the Lens carousel, users start by saying “Hey Snapchat,” followed by a verbal request, such as “Make my hair pink,” “Give me green eyes,” “Take me underwater,” or “Take me to outer space.”

In addition to leveraging Houndify’s voice recognition, the Snapchat app uses Houndify’s wake word technology, allowing voice interactions to be triggered hands-free just by saying, “Hey Snapchat.”

Houndify’s speech recognition was already considered among the fastest, and the platform got a significant upgrade when SoundHound partnered with ReadSpeaker to bring its text-to-speech (TTS) technology to the platform. This means that developers using Houndify can now add ReadSpeaker’s voices to their custom voice assistants.

“The Houndify Voice AI platform helps companies retain brand identity, data ownership, and valuable customer relationships,” said Kamyar Mohajer, vice president of corporate strategy at SoundHound, in a statement. “The addition of ReadSpeaker’s industry-leading and custom TTS offerings provides brands with the complete technology stack to help them extend their brands through voice.”

SoundHound also bolstered the Houndify platform with an expanded selection of languages, bringing the total number to 22. The company says it plans to add more than 100 languages and variations in the coming months.

Among the languages currently supported are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indian English, German, Dutch, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, and more.

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