Song-recognition app maker SoundHound Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a wildly ambitious plan to take on Google Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Amazon.com Inc. with its voice search technology, dubbed Hound.
The Silicon Valley company, which had been working on the technology for Hound since 2005, said Hound can potentially be embedded into anything that’s connected to the Internet, allowing people to ask questions of their toaster, coffee maker or car and get answers trawled from databases or the Web. For now, Hound is still in beta and is only available as an app on Android devices. A version for iOS is expected sometime this summer. The company did not say when Hound will be available to the general public.
While Hound is being released initially as a mobile app, the company wants to eventually license the technology for all manner of “smart” devices, including the growing “Internet of Things” universe. Gartner Inc. projected that the number of Internet-connected devices will grow from 4.9 billion devices worldwide this year to 25 billion devices in 2020. To encourage developers to explore its technology, SoundHound on Tuesday also launched Houndify, an application program interface that lets developers integrate Hound voice recognition and search into whatever they’re building.
“We believe in a world where we speak to the things around us just as we speak to each other,” SoundHound’s Chief Executive Keyvan Mohajer said in a statement.
It’s a vision that plenty of other companies also believe in. Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and Amazon has Alexa. Google’s voice recognition is built into many of its applications. All are competing to become for voice search what Google has been for desktop search.
SoundHound, which has 110 employees, believes its technology can compete by offering an approach to search that it says is faster, more accurate and more intelligent than what’s currently available.
“Let’s say I want to find hotels in Seattle for three nights, starting tomorrow, that’s pet-friendly and are within 0.5 miles of the Space Needle,” said Katie McMahon, SoundHound’s Vice President and General Manager. “I can drill down even further and tell it to leave out hotels that don’t have any air conditioner. Hound gives you results to complex questions right away. You can’t easily do that with any other service.”
For the music industry, McMahon said Hound could potentially be applied to events, such as concerts and festivals. “We did not launch with events today, but that is one area that we are excited to get into,” she said, pointing out that Hound could, for example, search for U2 concert dates in California after July 2. “I can get more granular and more contextual without having to type or text.”
The company, which raised nearly $40 million in financing over the past 10 years, continues to draw an undisclosed amount of revenue from its eponymous music recognition application in the form of advertising, technology licensing and affiliate fees generated by traffic referrals that lead to sales.