A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: VoiceBox.
What: Bellevue-based VoiceBox
What it does: Develops speech-recognition software that uses the context of a query to be more accurate in noisy or other difficult situations.
Co-founders: Mike Kennewick, chairman and chief executive; Rich Kennewick, president; Bob Kennewick, chief technology officer; and Tom Freeman, senior vice president of marketing.
All in the family: The Kennewicks, who are brothers, worked previously at Saros, a document-management software business that Mike started after working at Microsoft.
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Mike sold Saros to FileNET in Kirkland. At the time, Freeman worked at Saros’ competition.
Talk of the town: The four joined to figure out why speech recognition often doesn’t work well. Words are easily garbled or misunderstood because of background noise, accents or other factors.
History: The company was founded in 2001 on the premise that people will use voice-recognition devices for more services in the future.
Venture capital: VoiceBox hasn’t raised any venture capital. Initially, it lived off investments by potential partners. Today the company has 50 employees, including 40 speech engineers.
Demonstration: During a short film clip, VoiceBox shows how drivers can access 160 XM Satellite Radio channels by saying, for instance, “What jazz stations are available?” The radio replies by listing five. From there, the driver can choose one.
Point of differentiation: The difference between VoiceBox and other voice-recognition tools, according to the company, is context. The software tries to guess when it doesn’t understand something.
For instance, if it misunderstands you and thinks you’ve asked for “traffic conditions on I-Mighty,” it will automatically realize you said “I-90.”
In the field: The company has contracts with seven companies. So far, it has announced a deal with XM. At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, the companies last week demonstrated the technology in a 2006 Lexus LX 470.
— Tricia Duryee