3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) has announced an equity investment and collaboration in VocalZoom Ltd.. Based in Yokne'am, VocalZoom develops speech enhancement technology and voice-enabled user interfaces that allow voice communication and recognition in any environment. The terms of the investment through its corporate venture capital fund 3M New Ventures were not disclosed although reports in the Israeli media have indicated that it was several million dollars.
VocalZoom chairman Yechiel Kurtz said, “While touch capability has become the de-facto standard for user interfaces, voice activation is also gaining more and more momentum to enable hands-free operation of state-of-the-art devices. VocalZoom’s technology will accelerate this trend by enabling the use of voice in even the most demanding environments. 3M’s investment and collaboration provides us with new and exciting opportunities, such as integration of our sub-system into 3M’s display and touch technology as well as a broad range of additional applications.”
VocalZoom was founded in 2010 by CEO Tal Bakish to strive to enable use of speech for communication and voice activation purposes in any natural environment, by developing an optoelectronic microphone that significantly improves the speaker’s understanding in any noisy environment. While conventional approaches focus on filtering and signal processing to isolate the voice from ambient noise, VocalZoom is applying its patented technology that integrates a standard acoustic microphone and a special optical sensor to solely detect the speaker’s voice. VocalZoom says that the benefits are essential for next generation user interfaces, providing high directivity, speaker isolation, improved signal quality, and precise voice activity detection.
3M New Ventures president Stefan Gabriel said, “For voice activation to become ubiquitous it must seamlessly work in any environment regardless of the level of background noise. VocalZoom is a critical enabler for a new generation of user interfaces that do not just rely on touch or gestures but also on our voice to input data. The investment in VocalZoom will help us to complement our existing technology in this field, and to collaboratively develop new products for our OEM customers.”
3M energy and electronics business group VP R&D Robert Visser said, “We see a great variety of applications in which people may prefer voice as a means to interact with their personal device environment, including their industrial work places, hospitals, or commercial kiosks, and even consumer electronics. VocalZoom’s signal capturing system adds a critical component to 3M’s technology portfolio in user interfaces and acoustics to enable novel solutions for those spaces.”
3M Israel managing director Nir Leshem said, “Israel is one of the most vibrant technical and entrepreneurial regions in the world and there are plenty of opportunities for 3M. VocalZoom is our very first investment and we look forward to other investments in Israeli high tech startups."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 26, 2012
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