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Snips raises $13 million for voice platform that gives gadgets an alternative to Google and Amazon

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Snips announced today that it has raised $13 million to boost its launch of a new voice platform designed to give hardware makers an alternative to Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa.

The artificial intelligence-driven service will allow designers to embed voice assistant services in just about any device they make. Snips will work with customers to help them modify the platform so it suits their design needs.

At the same time, a consumer version will be available on the web that will let anyone adapt a version for use on a device powered by Raspberry Pi.

Rand Hindi, Snips CEO and cofounder, said the goal of the service was to give companies a choice so they wouldn’t have to rely on the platforms of companies like Google and Amazon that can change their terms and designs over time.

While the use of voice assistants is still relatively new, Hindi said it was becoming clear that voice-activated technology would become the dominant interface over time. The company sees a massive opportunity in helping gadget makers who don’t have deep AI technical resources embrace this trend.

“If machines are able to understand and talk, potentially you don’t have to learn how to use them anymore,” he said. “Voice is becoming more and more the most intuitive way to interact with machines.”

Snips’ AI voice assistant operates entirely on a device, rather than connecting to a cloud platform. So unlike Google and Amazon, Snips’ platform is not dependent on collecting massive amounts of data from users. That could be a critical difference next year when new European digital privacy rules that require more explicit permission to collect user data go into effect, Hindi said.

The company will also sell the voice platform as a component, rather than a service. Device makers will purchase the technology and pay once, rather than paying a per-query fee.

The launch comes along with another $13 million in venture capital that will help Snips, which is based in Paris, continue product development and build a sales and marketing team. The investors in the latest round include MAIF Avenir, BPI France, Eniac Ventures, and a Korean-French venture fund. The company has now raised a total of $21 million.

The new produce represents a pivot for Snips. A year ago, Snips launched a consumer-facing app that used its AI tech to create a hyper-smart personal assistant. Snips’ app scanned all the data across the apps on your smartphone to deliver insight about you. Because all the data stayed on the phone, rather than being processed in the cloud, the company was betting users would feel more comfortable giving it access to more data.

But the app never got much traction, so the company shifted its focus to developing the voice platform.

Snips now claims the accuracy of its natural language technology outpaces Facebook’s Wit.ai, Google’s API.ai, and Microsoft Luis. The platform works in five languages: French, English, Spanish, German, and Korean.

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