In the race for ever-smarter human-to-computer communication, SoundHound is banking that its new offering -- Hound -- will outperform competitors like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana. Available now only in beta for Android, Hound goes beyond speech recognition and language understanding to deliver "speech-to-meaning" capabilities, according to the company.
Currently best known for its music identification app of the same name, SoundHound first launched in 2007. Its Android app on the Google PlayStore has been downloaded well over 50 million times; the app is also available for iOS, Windows and BlackBerry devices.
During a demonstration of the Hound app for the media, CEO Keyvan Mohajer showed how the application can quickly produce search results for complex, natural-language voice queries and refine those results further when a user gives additional spoken commands. In addition to being able to search for, say, three- or four-star, pet-friendly hotel rooms with free Wi-Fi in Seattle, Hound can also conduct complex searches for news, events, stock updates, weather and more.
A 'Logical Extension of Search'
We reached out to Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, to learn more about Hound's potential to shake up the personal digital assistant market. Last fall, Stone Temple Consulting conducted a head-to-head comparison of several of the leading software assistants, Google Now, Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana. Enge said he had not yet seen Hound in action, but he sees great potential in the market.
"The market for digital assistants is going to be quite large," he told us. "Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all making huge investments in these areas, because they believe this is a logical extension of search."
Google's vision, for example, "always has been, to build the Star Trek Computer, basically, a machine that you talk to much the same way you do a human, but this machine is smart enough to answer nearly any question you might ask," Enge noted.
Early Lead to Google Now
Hound understands both context and details for fast and deep results, according to SoundHound. "Just recognizing words isn't good enough, so Hound does language understanding at the same time," the company said. "This speech-to-meaning capability makes Hound the new way to search and do things faster without typing."
In its October study of personal digital assistants, Stone Temple Consulting found that "Google Now has a clear lead in terms of the sheer volume of queries addressed, and more complete accuracy with its queries than either Siri or Cortana." While Google is progressing the fastest on all fronts, all three parties will keep investing in this type of technology," according to the report.
Cortana, for example, is expected to show off considerably more capabilities when the updated version is released along with the new Windows 10 operating system on July 29. Enge said it will be important for companies in this space to establish a lead as early as possible.
"Establishing yourself early in a market like this provides very powerful advantages to any player that can successfully do it," he said. "That does not mean a player can't come in later with a fundamental new innovation (such as Google did in the search market), but you definitely have a better chance of long-term success if you can get into the market early."