Just as we were getting used to finger cramps from endlessly typing on our phones and laptops, the tech industry introduces the most natural interface of all: voice. Voice is the primary mode of communication and has the potential to be the next big thing in tech, just like mobile shook things up in the previous decades.
In 2011, Apple released the iPhone 4 and introduced us to Siri. In 2014, Amazon followed with Alexa, and Google Assistant saw the light in 2016. Voice technology is a part of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and has one goal: to make our lives more convenient and productive. Applications vary from voice messaging and road navigation to simple commands directed to a phone. Other areas experimenting with voicetech are security and access control in retail banking and related industries.
According to the New IDC spending guide, the global spending on AI systems will be nearly $98 billion USD in 2023. Now, as social distancing becomes the new norm, the applications of voice technology are accelerating.
We look at five promising voicetech startups in Southeast Asia.
Indonesia-based Botika was originally a platform for flight ticket reservations. Due to high demand, they looked for ways to automate their services. Now Botika develops virtual assistants with the use of artificial intelligence. Their ‘chatbotika’ product automates work and reduces costs, and their ‘omnibotika’ offers a single dashboard to solve customer problems in the fastest way. This has evolved to ‘voicebotika’ with speech to text (STT) and text to speech (TTS) technology.
In 2019, CEO Ditto Anindita declared financial services would benefit from chatbots as their research shows that 54% prefer them to customer service calls if they can save 10 minutes. Chatbots are useful for checking mutation transactions, checking balances, and updating personal information.
Although ZWIZ.AI does not yet offer spoken services, its focus is AI chatbots and analytic tools for businesses. Small Shops, hotels, cinemas and banks in Thailand are using ZWIZ.AI chatbots to serve their customers. With the shop service, customers can order and pay directly through the AI chatbot. While ZWIZ.AII understands all main languages, the Thai startup has the advantage of being specialised in the local language and speech patterns.
The food delivery sector is a big customer, with clients viewing food menus via Facebook and Line, and then ordering and paying via the chatbot.
This Singapore-based tech company is a success story in the dating world. The app works like a standard dating app, but you meet new friends through random voice matches allowing you to have a conversation and wish your match Goodnight. There are no pictures, no text, just voices. This is an ideal way to discard judging or being judged by our appearance alone. Just listen and talk.
Run by Asian dating and networking app operator Paktor Group, who also owns its namesake app Paktor, Goodnight arrived in 2013 thanks to M17’s current CEO Joseph Phua. Acquired by Kollective Ventures from Taiwan’s M17 Entertainment it merged with the live streaming company 17 Media in April 2017 to form M17.
The Vietnam Software Association and IT Services (VINASA) named Cyber Callbot of Viettel Cyberspace as one of the best 10 IT products on May 16 2020.
Cyber Callbot is the first platform using AI to answer customers in Vietnamese. Viettel AI provides speech processing in speech synthesis, converting text into the Vietnamese language, and speech recognition, converting speech into Vietnamese text. This allows applications such as those found in smart homes, smart speakers, microphones, meeting rooms and more, to improve our quality of life.
This Singapore-based tech platform focuses on financial services in banking and insurance. Active.Ai wants to service banks on every level of the customer’s journey: from attracting and converting to engaging clients. Their ‘Triniti engine’ has the intelligence to understand small talk and deliver responses through micro conversations in a more natural and familiar way on mobile or chat. Founded in 2016, Active.ai is working with top-tier Banks and Insurance companies in Singapore, India, Malaysia, and North America.
Voice technology is no longer science fiction, and it is taking off in all areas of life, from business applications to the domestic sphere. Our voice is our most natural way of communicating, and like fingerprints, it is a unique identifier.
Although voice technology is part of high tech AI, it has the capabilities to turn our eyes away from our screen and bring us closer to more natural communication. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, these five voicetech startups in Southeast Asia have shown their true potential to be part of a welcome solution, providing touch-free technology, to help us face hygiene and social distancing challenges.