Snips Kicks Off Plug And Play in Japan

Snips was in Asia again last week, just a few days after we returned to our Paris from Computex in Taiwan. This time, our team was promoting the release of our Japanese language voice assistant after being selected as one of the first batches of the Plug And Play Accelerator in Japan.

Part of a wider international series of accelerators and events, Plug and Play Japan aims to help international companies launch in the country by facilitating connections between innovative startups and established local players.

Over the four-day program in Tokyo, the Snips team met with a variety of major companies in the country including Dentsu, Nissan and MUFG. In the a few dozen meetings during the “speed dating” portion of the program, the Snips team was able to engage with key decision makers and technical leaders from some of the most influential companies in Japan.

Before the Plug and Play program commences in earnest next month, we wanted to share a few takeaways from our experience and what to expect going forward in Japan.

Why Japanese?

Somewhat surprisingly, several of the companies we spoke to during the Plug and Play sessions wondered why Snips had chosen to launch in Japanese. “Aren’t there bigger markets for you to develop?”, some wondered.

For Snips, Japan was an extremely attractive market for a number of reasons, chief among them is its reputation as a global hub for consumer electronics. Nearly every major consumer technology operates in Japan and with an increasingly tech savvy population, voice assistant usage is among the highest in the world. A recent study by Mindshare noted that 51% of 35–54 year olds in Japan use voice assistants at least once a week.

Many Japanese companies also have regional and international influence that extends far beyond the country’s borders. Since it took us just 3 months to launch the Japanese, the benefit of being able to approach Japanese companies with a local offer to supplement our other languages made complete sense.

Traction with Companies Looking for Offline Reliability

Voice assistant adoption in Japan has been driven by the increasingly common use of smart speakers. Widespread smart speaker use has, of course, meant that the major cloud-based players have dominated the voice market in Japan to this point. Yet these generic assistants are insufficient for every use case, especially in environments where unreliable internet connections are common.

In the conversations we had at Plug and Play, many companies are aware that to truly bring voice to their products, it may not be enough to use a voice solution that is dependent on signal strength.

Since our customers’ voice assistants are embedded, we do not store or send data to the cloud. While this has implications for end-user privacy, another important byproduct of our on-device approach is that companies do not have to worry about poor performance and user experience in locations without an internet connection. As voice assistants become more in-demand, companies in Japan need to have confidence that their performance is consistent and reliable, no matter the conditions.

As Japan ponders similar legislation to Europe’s GDPR with the aim of protecting user’s privacy, choosing on-device voice assistants with offline functionality could be the answer for companies that demand reliability on any environment.

Next Steps with Plug And Play

So what’s next for Snips at Plug and Play? The companies the Snips team met with will spend the next few weeks reviewing the materials we presented and obtaining clarification on outstanding issues before deciding if they would like to pursue pilots with us. Plug and Play will announce which companies have decided to work with us on 10 July.

From there, the work really begins: The Snips team will spend the summer preparing to deliver successful pilots that will be presented in Tokyo on 5 September. Japan hasn’t seen the last of Snips!

If you liked this article and want to support Snips, please share it!

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you want to work on AI + Privacy, check our jobs page!