Investing in Speech

Speech is essential human behavior. It ties our families and our societies together at the most fundamental level. Speech isn’t easy, however. It takes years to learn, and even modest impairments from unfamiliar accent, noise and reverberation can render it incomprehensible. But when it works, people can harvest an enormous amount of information from a single utterance. From one snippet of speech, we can identify the speaker or at least the speaker’s demographics (gender, age, national origin); we can pick up on emotions; and we can (usually) make out the words. We even pick out clues about the immediate environment of the speaker. It’s a treasure trove of information.

We’re right in the middle of a fundamental technology transformation.
BabbleLabs invents and invests in technologies fundamental to improving our understanding of speech. We enhance the clarity of recorded and transmitted speech. We recognize speech intent. We are extracting an increasing range of insights from speech streams. The volume of speech from billions of people multiplied by the value of speech — especially critical communications within organizations and with customers — creates a huge latent market. The voice and speech recognition market alone is expected to produce $30B in revenue over the next seven years (Tractica 2018). And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging improved speech communications and analytics.

We’ve done a lot in our first two years.

We have laid a technical foundation of core algorithms, huge datasets ...

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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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