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San Francisco startup AISense in February launched Otter, a voice recording app that leverages artificial intelligence to transcribe speech, with the goal of developing tech that can accurately capture conversations in meetings, interviews, and conferences. Since then, it has added features such as call recording, inline image embedding, and advanced exporting options. Today, it announced a new service designed for institutes of higher learning: Otter for Education.

CEO Sam Liang describes Otter for Education as designed to “meet the needs” of universities and other higher level education institutions and as an affordable and real-time accessibility aid for students with note-taking accommodations. Tulane University, Western Kentucky University, and UCLA have signed on in early access earlier this year ahead of the launch of an enterprise release in December 2018.

“We are excited that Otter will bring AI into classrooms and will dramatically improve education effectiveness,” Liang said. “Students now have searchable class notes with synchronized audio, and real-time transcription makes classes accessible for students who have difficulty following what a teacher is saying.”

Otter for Education affords instructors control over access to recorded transcripts and was designed to complement disability services and accessibility technologies already being used by universities, Liang said. Pricing has yet to be announced, but AISense is today opening pilot program signups to interested parties.


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“Otter is a promising new assistive technology for students that require note-taking assistance,” said Kathryn Fernandez, executive director for campus accessibility at Tulane University. “It not only provides recording and synchronized speech recognition, it can recognize who is speaking and integrate search and keyword extraction.”

Otter’s core technology, which was developed over the course of two years by a team that hails from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MIT, Stanford, Duke, and Cambridge, is optimized for conversations. Otter can automatically separate individual speakers using a technique called diarization, and generate a unique print for each person’s voice.

Transcriptions are processed in the cloud and made available from the web or in Otter’s mobile app, where they can be searched, copied and pasted, scrolled through, and shared. A word cloud at the top of each recording tracks the most-used terms.

Otter competes with Microsoft’s eponymous Microsoft 365, which can host live events with AI-powered features such as facial recognition of attendees and autonomous speech-to-text conversion, as well as comparable meeting transcription tools from Cisco and startup Voicera.

But AISense seeks to differentiate its service with competitive pricing. Premium subscription plans start at $10 per month ($5 a month for students) and include up to 100 hours of recording and advanced exporting options.

It’s also licensing its tech to third parties, like video conferencing company Zoom.

AISense has raised $13 million to date from Horizons Ventures, Bridgewater Associates, i-Hatch Ventures, MetaLab, Jay Markley, and others, plus seed investors Draper Associations, Slow Ventures, Danhua Capital, and 500 Startups.

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