SoundHound Just Launched a Crazy Powerful Personal Assistant App
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You probably know SoundHound as a song-identification service—the one that isn’t Shazam. But the company’s top brass wants to change that: The app is a small part of what’s going on inside the company’s Santa Clara offices. Today they’re announcing what they’ve been working on for nearly a year. It’s called Hound, and it’s a voice-controlled interface SoundHound hopes you’ll soon see inside every phone, tablet, car, toaster, and espresso machine on the planet.
Hound is sort of like Siri, in that you can use the app to send texts, set an alarm, or get directions. But it’s designed to be deeper and more complex, too. You can say “I need a hotel three Thursdays from now near Fisherman’s Wharf for less than $200 and it needs to have a pool and free WiFi,” and Hound will parse your data and find exactly what you’re looking for. During a demo, SoundHound founder Keyvan Mohajer spoke a series of ever-escalating commands and questions concerning international locations into his Nexus 5, eventually forcing the Android app to spit out the populations and capitals for three different countries all at once—the app delivered what he was looking for, no processing time needed. “The only limit,” Mohajer says, “is my breath.”
It’s part research tool, part personal assistant, part hands-free system. Mohajer only showed off a few commands, but Hound is a remarkable demo, and it worked almost every time. The most impressive part, though, is its speed: Rather than collect, synthesize, send, and then process your input (which is how most speech-recognition systems work), Hound does all those things simultaneously. It’s like Google’s Instant Search with your voice, searching and re-searching as you talk, and it feels so much better than Siri’s endless churning.SoundHound
There’s still a lot Hound can’t do, requests you make where it just falls back to a Web search. Mohajer says he’s particularly interested in recipes; he wants you to be able to say “Okay Hound, I have a stick of celery, some chicken broth, and a sausage,” and have a recipe returned. To do that and more, SoundHound is working to enlist partners to then execute on those commands (it’s launching with Expedia, but wants to add more to that list). Through the “Houndify” system, developers can integrate Hound technology and voice control into their own apps, and they can also plug their data and APIs into its interface.
Ideally, this is SoundHound’s perfect second act: It’s been working on this technology forever. The app learned to identify songs from your humming, and has a huge database of queries from its own music search engine. Now it’s taking those smarts and applying them toward a much, much larger breadth of topics and actions.
Hound (which is in private beta now for Android, and is coming to iOS soon) is entering an increasingly crowded market: There’s Siri, and Cortana, and Google Now; there’s Viv and Dragon Mobile Assistant and a dozen other ways to get things done by talking to your phone. SoundHound has been of part of refining speech recognition and natural language processing technology—and now it hopes Hound can show us this kind of app is ready to go from party trick to problem-solver.Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.