Snips was founded with a simple vision: that artificial intelligence could change the way humans and machines interact, without compromising privacy. Indeed, the more we become connected, the more we feel oppressed by technology, as each new device requires effort to learn and operate. But if we could interact with devices like we do with people –using our voice– then perhaps we could have all the benefits while we make technology disappear into the background.
But who says voice says microphone, so evidently privacy was going to be a major issue. Back when we first talked about it in 2013, few paid attention. Privacy was considered a nice-to-have at best, and a hindrance for many. Fortunately, this has changed over the last few years, with the multiplication of privacy scandals and data breaches. Privacy is now a must-have, and technology must be built following Privacy-by-Design principles.
This strong focus on privacy has led us to build our entire voice technology to run on-device, so that we could avoid sending voice recordings to the cloud. Running deep learning on the Edge however is no easy task, in particular when the goal is to have it run on devices that have limited computing power. But thanks to an incredible team, we were able to achieve our ambitions, and create the first on-device voice assistant that can handle complex use-cases.
And of all the use-cases, none is harder and more interesting than music. Given the almost infinite amount of artist and song names, it was clear that a generic “let’s build a huge model for everything” approach was not going to work, especially not on the Edge. This is where our secret sauce made a huge difference: by contextualizing the language understanding to a given domain and user, we were able to dramatically reduce the performance footprints of the models, while improving the user experience.
When it came to testing Snips, we didn’t think long about which speaker to use. As long-time Sonos fans, we had been using their products everywhere: in our first tutorial on music, in our homepage video, in our test units at home. So naturally, we were tremendously excited when the Sonos team offered to join forces to make the voice experience on Sonos even better!
This acquisition is an important validation that privacy and voice are here to stay. But it also shows that the impact of the French Tech ecosystem isn’t limited to France alone. By keeping the Snips team in Paris and integrating the technology into their products, Sonos proves that French technology can be scaled globally. To help drive this effort, our CTO Joseph and CPO Sébastien will be leading the team going forward, while I step down to focus on new privacy-related projects.
None of what we have done so far –and will do next– would be possible without our incredible team. I would like to deeply thank our engineers, researchers, product managers, business and operations people who had many opportunities to go elsewhere but decided to join our vision. In particular my co-founders Michael and Mael who took a leap of faith to start Snips, Joseph our CTO for his incredible leadership and execution skills, Yann our COO for running the company smoothly and constantly finding new business and financing opportunities and Sébastien our CPO for his foresight and good spirit. Finally, I would like to thank our clients and partners who trusted us, our investors The Hive, Eniac, MAIF, Korelya and BPI for backing us all the way, and our 38,000 developers who build amazing things with Snips!
To voice and privacy!