Today 3M Company, through its corporate venture organization 3M New Ventures, and VocalZoom Ltd., a leading developer of speech enhancement technology that enables voice communication and recognition in any environment, announced an equity investment and collaboration that will bring a new class of voice-enabled user interfaces to a broad range of customers. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“While touch capability has become the defacto standard for user interfaces, voice activation is also gaining more and more momentum to enable hands-free operation of state-of-the-art devices. VocalZoom’s technology will accelerate this trend by enabling the use of voice in even the most demanding environments,” said Yechiel Kurtz, chairman of VocalZoom. “3M’s investment and collaboration provides us with new and exciting opportunities, such as integration of our sub-system into 3M’s display and touch technology as well as a broad range of additional applications.”
VocalZoom was founded in 2009 with the mission to enable use of speech for communication and voice activation purposes in any natural environment, by developing an optoelectronic microphone that significantly improves the speaker’s understanding in any noisy environment. While conventional approaches focus on filtering and signal processing to isolate the voice from ambient noise, VocalZoom is applying its patented technology that integrates a standard acoustic microphone and a special optical sensor to solely detect the speaker’s voice. The benefits are essential for next generation user interfaces, providing high directivity, speaker isolation, improved signal quality, and precise voice activity detection.
“For voice activation to become ubiquitous it must seamlessly work in any environment regardless of the level of background noise. VocalZoom is a critical enabler for a new generation of user interfaces that do not just rely on touch or gestures but also on our voice to input data,” said Stefan Gabriel, president of 3M New Ventures. “The investment in VocalZoom will help us to complement our existing technology in this field, and to collaboratively develop new products for our OEM customers.”