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Fluential claims to have devoted more than 85 “man years” of research to besting Siri.
Today the company announced it has closed $8 million in angel funding led by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Fluential has developed voice recognition technology that makes it possible for your device to understand what you say.
“We’re stuck in an era where people work for their devices,” Fluential founder and CEO Farzad Ehsani told VentureBeat. “We type in commands when gestures or voice would be easier. We cater our speech patterns and word choices to adapt to entry-level voice assistant apps and still get the wrong results. Fluential is trying to give people a more human voice experience with their machines, and make our machines adapt to us – rather than us having to adapt to them.”
Ehsani said that voice recognition technology is still limited in function and “dumb.” Fluential wants to give people greater control over their device, beyond the keypad. This is important for users who may not be tech-savvy, have dexterity issues, are driving, or simply don’t want to type a long message into a phone.
The company claims its technology extends beyond dictation, commands, and search. The app uses artificial intelligence to “truly, deeply understand human language” and learn users’ unique preferences and habits, in a way that Siri (and its rivals) don’t.
“We have a voice technology that listens, learns, and responds like a human,” Ehsani said. “No one has tackled dialogue and language understanding as a necessary function of device communication and thought about how natural, conversational exchange with a device would enrich a user’s experience.”
Fluential is currently targeting the digital health sector and will release the first consumer application of its technology in spring 2014. It also has plans for military applications and currently has six patents and nine patents pending for natural language processing technologies.
Fluential was initially founded as Sehda in 2001 with technology that helped people who didn’t speak the same language communicate. Between 2001 and 2007, it was deployed in Iraq, Japan, Korea, and Serbia for military purposes.
Then in 2007, Sehda began its transition to Fluential by looking at the healthcare industry. It was implemented in Bay Area hospitals to help non-English speaking patients communicate with doctors. Now the goal is to target consumers as well, and expand beyond mobile devices to wearables.
Investor Soon-Shiong made his fortune in pharmaceuticals and is also a surgeon, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and medical researcher. He is currently the CEO of NantWorks.
Fluential is based in San Francisco, Calif.