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Israel’s Voca.ai Bought by Snapchat for $70 million

Another exit for Startup Nation brought to you by Voca.ai.

Snapchat has reportedly acquired Israeli startup Voca.ai for $70 million. Voca uses artificial intelligence to create realistic lifelike automated speech.

Based in Herzilya, Israel, Voca.ai was founded in 2017 by Einav Itamar and Dr. Alan Bekker. Its tech will let businesses use artificial intelligence handle telephone operations like sales and customer service.

Sending jobs outside of a company’s home country like the U.S. to places with much lower costs of labor such as India or Malaysia has been a contentious issue for decades. It began in manufacturing where whole factories were shuttered, repacked by ones on the other side of the world where the costs of labor, raw materials and taxes were cheaper.

Then came the advancements in telecommunications technologies. This made it easily affordable for businesses to set up international phone lines in any country to receive calls. So call centers popped up anywhere there were enough English speakers to handle sales and customer service calls. Someone in Toledo with a complaint or answering an ad would speak with a company rep on the phone without knowing that this person was actually in a different country.


But now there might not even be a need for people anymore. New AI tech could someday be capable of handling entire conversations.

Think about those prerecorded statements which offer you all of the options when calling the phone company or a government office. Now think about these things becoming interactive. Some day that voice on the other end of the phone will sound and feel real and be able to answer any question, but will really be coming from a computer.

Voca uses end-to-end speech neural models, which allow it to automate a vast amount of conversations, from sales to support within finance, insurance and telecommunication industries.

The company boasts that its Virtual-Agents, “sound so natural that your customers will never know the difference.”

Voca Agents use a speech-to-intent algorithm. Current AI technologies take speech and transcribe it to text in order to understand intent. But during this process crucial information gets lost.

Voca states that its approach to transcribing is different because it identifies intent from the voice, while utilizing vital information contained in the prosody, tone or speed of conversation. They apply machine learning to understand the full intent of the customer’s spoken conversation and speech. Voca Agents can automatically identify different tones and vocal clues to discern between what a customer says and what a customer means.

What will we all do for jobs when they won’t need people anymore? More than 60 years ago this was already prophesized on an episode of The Twilight Zone.

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