Amazon took another step toward boosting the reach of its voice-activated assistant Alexa by announcing an investment in Paris-based Invoxia.
The amount of the funding is undisclosed, but comes from the $100 million Alexa Fund that Amazon announced earlier this year. The money will help Invoxia integrate Alexa’s features into future versions of its first hardware product, the Triby, which is scheduled to go on sale later this month.
Costing $199, the Triby is a device that can attach by magnet to a refrigerator or just sit in the kitchen and lets users do things such as a stream music from services like Spotify, send short notes that the device displays, and even make and receive phone calls.
Invoxia probably seems like a good bet for Amazon for several reasons, not least of which is the background of the team that founded the company.
Éric Carreel, cofounder of Invoxia, is one of France’s more successful entrepreneurs, having previously founded IoT health device pioneer Withings and 3D cloud printing Sculpteo. Before that, he was a cofounder of Inventel, which made set-top boxes and was acquired by Thompson Telecommunications in 2005 for about $200 million.
Carreel started Invoxia to focus on natural language processing, but a couple of years ago began developing the Triby to leverage its software that allows devices to pick up voices from long distances and in noisy environments.
“We decided to focus on the kitchen because it’s a very important place for the whole family,” Carreel said.
The Triby will go on sale later this month, and the Alexa capabilities, such as answering questions, will be added later this year through a software update, he said.
Alexa is Amazon’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It allows people to control devices by giving vocal commands or asking questions that the cloud-based service tries to answer.
Amazon introduced Alexa with Echo, a voice-controlled Bluetooth speaker that integrates with several streaming music services and can also answer questions about things like weather and traffic. Amazon then announced an SDK that would let other developers build Alexa into their products.
Invoxia is the 11th company to receive money from the Alexa Fund and just the second in Europe.
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