Voysis Nabs $8M, Adds to Boston’s Growing Voice Tech Cluster

The disembodied voices are coming.

You probably know Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, but in the not-so-distant future every company and brand could have its own virtual assistant that you can talk to.

A startup called Voysis wants to help make that happen, and now the Dublin-based company has a lot more cash to advance its vision. Today Voysis announced an $8 million Series A funding round led by Polaris Partners. The money will go toward opening a Boston office and developing its technology.

“Voice is finally breaking through as the next interface, and companies across all industries are eager to leverage these capabilities so users can speak naturally with their favorite brands from their phones, cars, or home appliances,” said Peter Cahill, Voysis founder and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Apple, Amazon, and Google have built general-purpose voice assistants that do an excellent job of understanding simple commands, but can sometimes lack real utility and purpose for third-party applications. We deliberately designed and developed Voysis to fill this gap—a platform to quickly and easily build and deploy intelligent voice applications that are specific to individual brands.”

Cahill (pictured above) holds a PhD from University College Dublin, and he has spent more than a decade researching speech technology and neural networks.

The system his company has built includes a deep learning engine that was developed in-house, and utilizes speech recognition, natural language processing, and text-to-speech technologies. Customers combine their data—product names and descriptions, images, reviews, and so on—with Voysis’s artificial intelligence software in order to create a “brand-specific intelligence which can be queried using voice or text,” the company says on its website.

The idea is to make it easier for customers of a brand or company to search for products or information, and to speed up the process of making online purchases, for example. Voysis says its technology currently supports 16 languages, including Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese.

“There’s a massive opportunity for voice to transform relationships between businesses and their customers, just as Twilio did for the messaging industry and Stripe for payments,” Polaris Partners managing partner Dave Barrett said in a prepared statement. “For real industry change, the market needs intelligent voice assistants that are fast, accurate, and tailored to specific use cases.”

Voysis plans to double the size of its 15-person staff in the next year, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail to Xconomy. The Boston office will be focused on sales and marketing, and the company’s research and development team will remain based in Dublin, she said.

In an interview with Axios, Cahill explained the decision to keep its R&D team in Ireland: “Europe has had big challenges in languages, so European governments have funded a lot of language research. That means we have a lot of graduates who specialize in language, whereas the U.S. has focused and spent a lot less on it.”

Still, there’s plenty of speech technology talent in the Boston area, should Voysis decide to hire engineers and other technical experts here. Voysis’s presence adds to a growing local cluster of companies working on voice technologies. Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA, has been at it for years. More recently, Amazon’s local office has performed much of the work on speech recognition and other tech for the company’s Alexa-enabled devices. And several local companies are developing products that utilize Alexa and other voice-controlled virtual personal assistants, such as Mylestone, Earplay, Orbita, Mobiquity, and Rocket Insights.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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