Reaching the (Voice) Summit: Betaworks in Review
Demo day has come and gone, with all the accomplishment and sentimentality that fills weary kids on their way home from summer camp. Participating in Voicecamp with Betaworks — and all the other brilliant startups in voice computing — was undoubtedly one of our most formative and fortunate experiences since the first Earplay story, Codename Cygnus, was incepted in 2013. We wanted to take a moment, at the end of our eleven weeks of mentorship and rapid growth, to reflect upon the people and ideas that put the gas in our tank on even the longest of days.
The Betaworks Voice Summit was held in the Rubin Museum in NYC on Tuesday, July 27, from 1pm to 7pm, with three groups of demos from our fellow voice developers, for a total of eight companies. Guest speakers joined Voicecamp founders for three corresponding panels, including big names such as Rachel Weiss, VP of Innovation at L’Oreal, Dennis Crawley, co-founder of Foursquare, Chris Messina, inventor of the hastag, and Nancy Briscoe, Audience Development Manager for GE.
The first round covered the state of voice computing, and why voice is so important in today’s media ecosystem. Projects like SpokenLayer, Duo AI, and Shine demonstrated how unique human voices can revolutionize how we get the news, control our connected home, and take care of our well-being. Spoken language came long before writing did, and it cuts out the middleman between text (AKA, encoded sounds) and our brains. If we took just ONE big lesson from the Voicecamp experience, it’s that sound is by far the most personal and emotionally compelling medium, both for information and interaction.
The second round included NeuroLex — which can detect health concerns like depression and schizophrenia from a speech sample alone! — and Jovo, a framework for designing voice applications that work across platforms with just a single version of code. Last up, but certainly not least, Earplay came between John Done, a telephone voice assistant, and AgVoice, a hands-free form fill service for businesses.
For the occasion, a record 6 Earplay team members flew, drove, and bussed in from across the globe! CCO Dave Grossman, CTO Bruno Batarelo, marketing advisor Mary Alice McMorrow, brand consult John Young, and communications director Rachel Roberie gathered in the back while Earplay CEO Jon Myers presented a live demo of the Earplay Alexa Skill. When he stopped the demo story early to stay on schedule with the presentation, a voice from the back of the room cried “No!” (And it wasn’t us, for the record.)
As Jon continued the presentation, he not only revealed Earplay’s traction (40,000+ Earplay users signed up with their email in the last 6 months) and publishing platform strategy, but also announced the Earplay Creator Program with a slide of partner logos that included the top brands in the fields of entertainment, podcasting, and news. For now, exact details are private and only for those who attended the summit, but you can expect to hear more soon about the specific charter partners who are working with Earplay as part of the Creator’s Program.
A major highlight of the day, and likewise the conclusion of this Summit, was the Future of Voice panel, moderated by Betaworks Founder and CEO John Borthwick. It was a forward-looking glance at where voice (and Earplay) will be several years from now… (Hint: everywhere!)