The technology is being built by a small San Francisco startup, Expect Labs, which is announcing strategic investments from the venture capital arms of three weighty backers today: Samsung, Intel, and Telefónica Digital, the business unit the telecom company launched in 2011 to unearth new revenue opportunities. The size of the investments was not disclosed.
Expect Labs has attracted attention because its technology is in line with the general direction that search technology has been taking with the advent of wearable computers such as watches and glasses, and Internet-connected cars and TVs. Rather than wait for users to search for something, the new technology offers up info that it thinks the user might need. The Google Now software for mobile devices, for example, already monitors its users’ locations, search history, and e-mail to call up traffic reports and other information. But Google Now doesn’t mine old-fashioned voice conversations yet. In October, Google Ventures invested in Expect Labs as part of a $2.4 million financing round by the startup.
Expect Labs has spent more than two years developing artificial intelligence technology that can parse the meaning of real-time conversations (Apple’s Siri, in contrast, can interpret only relatively simple spoken commands). Expect Labs’s “anticipatory computing engine” extracts the most relevant terms and uses them to offer potentially helpful information (see “Smart Assistant Listens to You Talk, Fetches Info Automatically”). For example, if two friends are having a discussion about grabbing some Thai food, it might call up reviews of nearby restaurants. If a company’s revenue comes up in a videoconference, it could display recent revenue charts. Expect Labs has built an app, called MindMeld, to demonstrate to partners how this works.