US social media company Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP) (Snapchat) has acquired Israeli voice assistant solutions startup Voca.ai, a source has informed "Globes." The source estimates that the acquisition is for about $70 million.
Voca.ai, which was founded in 2017 by CEO Einav Itamar and CTO Dr. Alan Bekker, has developed a bot to replace human representatives in company call centers. The bot can be trained by hearing previous conversations between the company's representatives and customers and is programmed to observe not only language but other indicators such as the pitch, tone and speed of the customer's voice. The bot is also able to identify other attributes of the customer including feelings and intuition.
To date, Voca.ai has raised $6 million from investors including American Express Ventures, lol Ventures, and Flint Capital. The company has 30 employees who will form Snap's development center in Israel.
Although originally designed for customer call centers, Voca.ai's technology and bot can be adapted for other uses. During the Covid-19 crisis, the company has collected voice samples of caller in order to learn to identify from their voice if patients are infected by the virus. The assumption is that as Covid-19 affects the lungs and respiratory system, this will influence the voice.
This range of abilities in identifying speech and producing artificial speech have attracted Snapchat, which in June launched a voice command function for users to request filters, which can alter their appearance. For example, the user can ask for their hair to turn pink, and the voice command function ensures that the operation is completed.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 11, 2020
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