Dubbed the voice industry’s search engine, natural language processing firm Audioburst has sown seeds for a major 2019, inking a partnership with LG Electronics to jointly build in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems in anticipation of its new Deep Analysis API – to be unveiled at CES 2019.
As we learned in conversation with Audioburst a couple of months ago, the growing IVI space has been high on the agenda, so to be selected so soon by an electronics behemoth pumping in $55 billion in annual revenue is arguably the company’s greatest feat to date.
Details on the collaboration are thin on the ground prior to the grand unveiling in Las Vegas next month, but we do know that Audioburst Deep Analysis API adds an additional level of metadata categorization to its core offering – providing a more in-depth understanding of the content being searched for and enjoyed in real-time. It claims the collaboration will produce “the next big thing in IVI centers for automakers”.
A brief browse of the LG product page doesn’t exactly spark excitement, with some basic looking display audio products for the auto industry, none of which mention voice functionality. Of course, LG’s expertise is display technology, not audio, making Audioburst’s involvement all the more significant.
Audioburst’s big message is that it provides a new way to monetize audio streams. So, as well as using natural language processing to listen, understand, segment and index millions of minutes of daily talk content from thousands of audio sources, Audioburst also establishes distribution channels directly – just as any other search engine does – from where customers can bring in additional advertising revenues on top of their existing core ad revenue streams.
This will prove crucial for the music and radio industries in the battle against the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, as Audioburst can bring audio content to new audiences, new countries and new devices – content which might otherwise have been played once on a live radio stream and forgotten about forever.
It can also detect things like background noise and music and pick the best quality audio stream of the same report from multiple sources to deliver to the end user, then does the same for the next report and cues this for playing in a personalized way. The platform is based on a combination of audio analysis and a segmentation engine, enhanced with in-house developed machine learning capabilities with a little help from some off the shelf algorithms for existing transcripts, so we wait with intrigue to see how the new Deep Analysis API builds on this.
In the meantime, there may be cause for concern for hopefuls in the IVI industry, as Amazon announced its entry just three months ago via an integration with BMW, to fit microphones into select vehicles including those from Mini. This enables Alexa to bridge the gap between the home and the car, then from the car to the office, and back again. But for Audioburst, it claims the plan isn’t to compete with Alexa and Google Assistant, but to enhance voice assistants. “These companies can do whatever they want, but in the audio space Amazon and Google are mostly interested in selling devices, so we’re not worried as we have relationships in place with the major smart speaker makers,” Audioburst VP Marketing Asaaf Gad told Faultline Online Reporter in September.
Notably, Apple and Google have had IVI plays of their own for some time, with CarPlay and Android Auto, and Amazon’s entrance may be a disconcerting one for the two mobile giants which have spent years attempting to get a foothold in the automobile sector.
Closer to home, LG’s electronics rival Samsung – a key investor in Audioburst – has a deal with Audi, supplying its Exynos SoCs in certain Audi vehicles, operating up to four different domains and displays simultaneously and this is able to support multiple operating systems.
It’s worth noting that Samsung acquired IVI specialist Harman two years ago for $8 billion, with presence in some 30 million vehicles at the time. Harman has continued to grow under Samsung ownership, with latest third quarter earnings results showing sales up 6% year on year to about $2 billion, with operating profit doubling to $35.5 million. LG Electronics is a great account for Audioburst, but a partnership with Harman via Samsung would be a game changer for the company, potentially putting it miles ahead of anyone else.
That said, Audioburst is in a strangely unique position in that competition is few and far between and we mentioned previously that Audioburst would offer an edge to a larger beast in the voice industry, particularly given the difficulty of indexing audio files compared to typed transcripts. The same is true of Speechmatics who we covered in detail last week – suggesting that 2019 might not be the year of voice some predict, but it could certainly be the year start-ups in voice and audio technologies get acquired “en masse”.