Power of Nuance

I am musing today on the famous phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword” which comes from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's historical play Richelieu (1839). (Bulwer-Lytton is also infamous for opening his novel Paul Clifford with the line "It was a dark and stormy night.”, inspiring an eponymous fiction contest looking for the "opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels”). Words may be mightier than the sword, but something is more powerful still … speech!  We may think of words and speech as synonymous, but words are just text, merely capturing and distilling the basic intent of speech.  Every playwright and every actor knows what a great gap exists between the letters on the page and the full impact of human expression.  Speech, of course, includes words, but also carries the rich nuance of stress, intonation, timing, volume, timbre and countless non-verbal utterances.  Even the background sounds and resonances are part of the experience.   These extra dimensions of speech transmit enormous insight into speaker, their situation, mood and character, and even the space where they are speaking.  There is a gold mine of insight available to us.

We have enjoyed speech-based electronic communications for almost 150 years, but progress is accelerating.  We now routinely expect speech-centric interfaces for almost any kind of electronic interaction - both with personal devices like a smartphone and with product services like customer support.  Ironically, most of today’s systems rely on text alone.  Speech serves as the input to different ...

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Today is the Day — Reflections

BabbleLabs has just launched broad production availability of our commercial speech API, web service, and phone mobile apps for iPhone and Android. These services clean up video and audio recordings to make the speech much easier to understand. The apps work on existing videos as well as new audio and video recorded inside the app. In either case, simply select the item you want to enhance and the app strips out virtually all of the background noise. You can then choose to post or share the enhanced content, or keep it just for yourself. It’s fun to experiment — download the app for free and process your first 125 minutes of video or 250 minutes of audio at no cost — that amount will last most users for a long time. Rest assured, the apps are completely private; they never store anything in the cloud or share anything with BabbleLabs.

You can download the apps here:
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.babblelabs.clearcloud
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/babblelabs-clearcloud/id1438037795?mt=8

We have great content to explore on our web site — you can learn more about the App, API, and Web Interface, and how BabbleLabs achieves such great results. Explore the site — in Gabby’s Lab, you can see more examples and send us your own!

This release is a major milestone for BabbleLabs — the culmination of more than a year’s effort by a remarkable team. The milestone has triggered some reflections on my career to date.

I have spent almost my whole career on technology start-ups — ...

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Small, Medium, Large: Finding the Right Company Fit

Rachel Gardner, 2018 Summer Intern, Stanford University Computer Science, Class of 2020

In looking for a job, there is a constant question: big company vs small company? Rather than answer this question, I chose “all of the above” and interned at a medium-sized company (Silicon Labs), a large company (NVIDIA) and now a small company (BabbleLabs), one after the other. The first and most obvious difference is that I always have to explain what BabbleLabs does, as “I work at a deep learning startup” usually invokes a fair amount of interest (along with a few knowing smiles). In case you were also wondering, Babblelabs is a speech processing company, using advanced neural networks for cloud and devices. It’s less than a year old, but has already launched its first product (5 months after raising the first $4M).

With such a small company (about 9 in BabbleLabs’ San Jose office), I was immediately treated as a full-time employee, with all that brings. In the often unstructured environment of a startup, I found that my past work at larger companies gave me the experience to impose my own structure: setting goals for the internship, calling meetings to discuss milestones, etc. It was clear that the decisions of the founding team were similarly influenced by experience with more established companies, both in terms of how to do things and in terms of what to avoid. Because of the small size of the company, I had the opportunity ...

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