Google's various flavors of voice control are neat, not to mention extremely useful thanks to deep integration with Android. But Mountain View doesn't have a monopoly on speech interpretation: Microsoft has made a pretty compelling case for its cross-platform Cortana system, to say nothing of the similar entries from Apple and Amazon. SoundHound threw its hat in the ring last year with the semi-proprietary Hound app, though you had to be part of the beta to check it out. Today Hound gets a public launch, and everyone can play with it with no prerequisites.
Hound does a lot of the same things that Google Now's voice search does, including the standard "OK Hound" voice activation phrase. The interesting bit is that SoundHound's system includes a natural speaking engine, allowing it to interpret conversational English directions without forcing the user to memorize commands. Watch the video below, demonstrating Hound's integration with Yelp and other tools, to see what that looks like:
The results are dramatic to say the least. This isn't quite the effortless voice control you see on Star Trek, but it's pretty similar. Majel Barrett would approve. At the time of release, Hound has partnered with Uber and Yelp for specific results, and uses public APIs for standard tools like Google Maps for location data. SoundHound has also introduced the Houndify development platform to foster development of even more tools.
SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SoundHound Inc., the leading innovator in sound recognition and voice search technologies, today announced the public launch of Hound®, the world’s most advanced voice search and virtual assistant app. Hound debuted as an invitation-only private beta last June and is now open to everyone and free to use on both iOS and Android devices.
Hound lets users speak naturally and follow up for more information, providing the fastest way to interface with mobile. Hound is constantly improving upon its voice recognition technology for greater accuracy with new data, so the app can consistently provide more answers on a wider variety of search queries or commands. To further enhance the experience for users, new partnerships with Yelp and Uber enable users to access Yelp’s business listings or request an Uber by speaking to the Hound app naturally, as if they’re speaking to another person.
“We believe that using voice to interface with devices will become a widespread user behavior if it is fast and delightful,” said Keyvan Mohajer, SoundHound Inc.’s Founder and CEO. “Hound delivers a major step-change to both speed and accuracy, while doing something fundamentally different from previous voice technologies by allowing users to speak naturally and ask follow-up questions to further refine, change or complete their results. Once users no longer feel the pain points of typing on small screens and being misunderstood by older voice services, they will fall in love with Hound.”
Hound is the first consumer product to utilize the Speech-to-Meaning™ recognition technology from SoundHound Inc.’s voice-enabling platform, Houndify™, which launched publicly in December. Partners using Houndify technology include NVIDIA, which is incorporating it into their DRIVE CX platform in car dashboards, and Samsung, which is including it within their ARTIK Platform to power Internet of Things devices, with future voice-controlled experiences coming from others.
The Houndify platform’s technology allows Hound to offer the fastest and most accurate search results with several unprecedented advantages:
- Natural language – Unlike other voice services that require the user to learn and use particular words or phrases, Hound takes the opposite approach and works with how a user speaks normally. Hound’s ease-of-use is a major step towards empowering users to speak naturally, rather than conforming to a robotic, keyword-based way of speaking.
- Speed and accuracy - Hound is the first voice search service to use Speech-to-Meaning technology, which simultaneously combines voice recognition and natural language understanding, resulting in extremely fast and accurate voice interaction experiences.
- Specificity and understanding of follow-up queries - Hound can understand multiple variables, which allows users to be specific and detailed with requests. Moreover, Hound retains awareness of the context of what the user is asking, enabling an experience of continuity with follow-up questions. Hound will also prompt the user for more information if some of the necessary variables for the query are not initially provided.
- Hands-free - Hound can be used completely hands-free by saying “OK, Hound…” which enables use cases when users cannot touch their phones. For example, while cooking, unit conversions or nutritional information can be accessed through Hound, and users can also search for locations and utilize navigation without looking down at the phone. Plus, Hound’s ability to handle long, complex and compound queries means users can shift their behavior from typing searches to using their voice for faster results, without needing to tap the screen.
- Constantly expanding deep and joyful experiences - Hound is constantly getting smarter by learning from its usage data, and by expanding the domains that provide relevant information or actions related to queries. With more than 100 domains live today, Hound provides deep and joyful answers that draw on data about weather, local businesses, hotels, currency, nutrition, music, navigation, reference information, videos, finance, mortgage calculation, sports scores, and more. These expanded domains give Hound the farthest-reaching collection of data categories available in any mobile voice app.
Yelp and Uber have partnered with SoundHound Inc. to integrate their data and APIs into Hound as domains. Hound’s Yelp integration brings local search to the next level by enabling users to get very detailed and specific with their requests during local business searches, using only their voices to ask follow-up questions, exclude certain types of listings or further sort their results.
"We are excited to connect Hound users with great local businesses," said Chad Richard, SVP of Business and Corporate Development at Yelp. “Hound’s ability to rapidly respond to complex voice searches and have an iterative dialog with follow-up questions and clarifications enables people to easily get more personally relevant results and discover great new businesses on Yelp.”
In addition, the Uber integration is a first-of-its-kind mobile phone experience that allows users to inquire about and order a ride by verbally giving their pick-up location and destination, for a hands-free interaction.
"Through this integration and virtual assistant Hound, users can just simply say the words and a ride will be on its way," said Matt Wyndowe, Head of Product Partnerships at Uber. "Thanks to this great hands-free experience, now getting an Uber is even easier than ever."
Known publicly as the company behind SoundHound, the music search, discovery and play app with more than 280 million unique downloads globally, SoundHound Inc. has been in stealth mode with its voice technology and natural language understanding research and development over the last decade. The company has quietly been building the technology ingredients needed to create a product that elegantly enables fast and accurate voice search when people speak naturally, and the platform that enables developers to use that technology in their own products.
To download Hound for iOS or Android, visit: http://soundhound.com/hound.