New algorithm uses AI to vastly improve voice assistants

Yobe Inc, an industry pioneer in artificial intelligence-powered signal processing solutions, has announced that it has secured $1.8M in seed funding from Clique Capital Partners, a $100M fund for investing in transformative voice technologies. The capital will be used to accelerate the commercialization of Yobe’s intelligent voice biometrics technology as they prepare for product launch this summer. The round follows a $990K round of angel funding and the 2016 receipt of a National Science Foundation SBIR grant to fund innovative research to solve the “Cocktail Party Problem.”

Yobe uses artificial intelligence to identify a signal’s DNA – biometrics in the case of voice – to accurately identify, track, isolate and separate voices of interest from other voices in extremely noisy environments, redefining the effectiveness of traditional voice authentication and speech recognition solutions. The technology allows device manufacturers to augment their products with vastly improved far-field speaker and speech recognition, superior voice UI and voice search, speech analytics and speech-to-text transcription, chatbots and conversational interactions.

“It’s become clear that voice is the future interface across a wide range of industries, technologies and applications,” said James Kenefick, General Partner at Clique Capital Partners. “We selected Yobe as one of our first investments because we believe that it will serve as the core underlying technology for the applications and hardware that shape the future, from smart homes and cars to security and surveillance.”

Yobe provides a number of major improvements over existing voice technologies including the ability to:

  •  Separate and enhance voices in the far field, even in the presence of near field voices and noise
  •  Improve the auditory scene by 20 decibels, exponentially improving the signal to noise ratio. Voices as low as a whisper can be effectively separated from background noise and enhanced for analysis
  • Track and support multi-user commands and profiles simultaneously, based on each speaker’s unique biometric signature
  • Embed software on smartphones and other low-power platforms for on device computations without the need for external power
  •  Proprietary enhancement technology that increases sound quality while decreasing packet sizes from between 30% to 50% of its original size, addressing storage and download constraints

Boston-based Yobe was founded by President and CEO Ken Sutton, a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of finance and business management experience, and Chief Scientist Dr. S. Hamid Nawab, an MIT PhD and internationally renowned researcher focused on applying AI to signal processing.

“This round of funding is coming at a pivotal time in the evolution of voice and speech technologies. The timing for us to come to market could not be better, as our technology is positioned to be transformative for voice interface platforms that need security and accuracy to operate in the real world,” said Sutton. “We’ve solved one of the most persistent problems in signal processing and were an obvious fit for an investor in innovative voice technologies like Clique.

“Through persistent research and development, we believe we’ve arrived at a point where what was once a science fiction technology is now a practical reality,” said Nawab. “The ability to consistently and reliably separate important signals from noise is not just a groundbreaking development in and of itself, but will lead to the creation of voice user interfaces that power the technology of the future.”