Bank of America breaks company record for new Patents in 2020 led by AI and Digital Banking

Erica - Bank of America

Bank of America broke its record for new patents in 2020, with 444 granted patents and 722 applications filed. Those numbers are among the highest for the financial services industry for the year, according to the latest list from the Intellectual Property Owners Association. AI and machine learning patents making up nearly one in five of the total.

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Humana Insurance and IBM Watson are building a Virtual Assistant for navigating Healthcare

IBM Watson Health

Health insurance giant Humana is launching a chatbot powered by IBM Watson’s conversational AI to give personalized assistance to people with health and dental insurance provided by their employer. Humana using the IBM Watson Assistant for Health Benefits marks a major milestone in the growing healthcare AI market, which has accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting demand on the healthcare industry and its ancillaries.

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Nuance acquires Medical Voice Assistant Startup Saykara

Saykara Nuance

Nuance announced that it had acquired healthcare artificial intelligence startup Saykara for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will bring the tech underlying Saykara’s voice assistant for doctors to Nuance’s conversational AI fro medical professionals, specifically the ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) designed to reduce doctor burnout.

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WeWalk smart cane guides visually impaired during Pandemic with Voice Assistant and Ultrasonics

Woman with Smart Cane

Canes have enabled people with impaired vision to travel safely on their own for a very long time. British tech startup WeWalk upgrades that ancient tool with a voice assistant built into its eponymous ‘smart cane’ as part of a suite of high-tech tools for navigating safely. WeWalk, which recently joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program, highlights how voice AI can be applied to improving accessibility, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of so many people with disabilities.

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Deepgram raises $25M to expand Enterprise Speech Recognition Platform

Deepgram

Speech recognition technology startup Deepgram has closed a $25million Series B funding round led by Tiger Global with participation from Wing Venture Capital, Citi Ventures, SAP.io, and NVIDIA Inception GPU Ventures. The funding almost doubles the investment raised by Deepgram as it expands the reach and features offered by its enterprise-focused automatic speech transcription and analysis platform.

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Microsoft debuts Synthetic Speech Platform ‘Custom Neural Voice’

Microsoft has unveiled the Custom Neural Voice service and begun accepting applications from customers interested in a synthetic voice built on the neural text-to-speech (TTS) feature of Azure Cognitive Services. Custom Neural Voice is already in use by brands like Warner Bros. and Progressive, but any company can now seek to build their own artificial voice actors.

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Facebook makes Multilingual Speech Recognition Model Open Source

Facebook AI has released a massive speech recognition database and training tool called Multilingual LibriSpeech (MLS) as an open-source data set. MLS combines more than 50,000 hours of audio in eight languages from public domain audiobooks with pre-trained language models and other data useful for automatic speech recognition development.

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Microsoft is adding new Cortana voice AI features to Outlook and Teams

Cortana

Microsoft is adding new voice AI features to its iOS mobile apps built around its Cortana voice assistant. The updates are part of Microsoft’s ongoing reintroduction of Cortana via Microsoft 365 products after ending its independent existence over the last year. Microsoft Outlook, Teams, Lens, and Office are all going to get additional natural language controls and interactive functions.

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Smart home energy startup Span Raises $20M From Munich Re Ventures and Amazon Alexa Fund

Person folding a phone

Smart electrical panel startup Span has raised $20 million in a funding round from new investors Munich Re Ventures and the Alexa Fund. Span offers AI-powered energy monitoring and management at home and is adding Alexa integration and voice control to the Span Smart Panel in the wake of the new funding.

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Qualcomm becomes 2nd Alexa Custom Assistant client with new Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms

Virtual car cockpit

Amazon Alexa will be a native component of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms, providing the basis for voice assistants in cars built by General Motors and other automotive manufacturers. Qualcomm will be the second company to design a custom, branded voice assistant using Amazon’s new Alexa Custom Assistant platform after it rolled out with Fiat Chrysler earlier in January.

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Spotify Patents Emotional Speech Recognition Tech for Song Recommendations

Phones with open music apps

Spotify may someday suggest songs based on the emotion in your voice, judging from a newly approved patent by the popular streaming service. The “Identification of taste attributes from an audio signal”  patent would augment Spotify’s existing speech recognition technology to account for not just what words are said, but how they are said and who is saying them, possibly making the resulting playlist more likely to be what the user is seeking.

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ID R&D launches Vocal Biometrics Security for WhatsApp Business Transactions

Biometric technology startup ID R&D and chatbot developer SimpleTech have created a voice authentication tool for WhatsApp that businesses can use to better secure financial transactions and other sensitive data. The idea is to enhance WhatsApp as a platform for enterprise with an extra, voice-based security layer.

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Alexa can now adjust your Smart Home Devices without needing to Ask Permission

Alexa

Alexa device owners can now set the voice assistant to operate smart devices without asking permission every time. Amazon rolled out the proactive Alexa Hunches option to users this week, about a month after previewing it for manufacturers of Alexa-enabled smart home devices.

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Google Meet adds Real-Time Transcription from Voice Tech Startup Otter.ai

Otter AI and Google Meet

Google Meet conferences can now add real-time transcriptions and captions using Otter.ai’s new Live Notes and Video Captions Google Chrome extensions, respectively. The free Otter’s speech-to-text technology is part of Google’s efforts to capture a bigger segment of the enterprise videoconferencing market as it explodes in the wake of the global pandemic, including the approximately 100 million daily users of Google Meet.

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Tencent joins $278.5M funding round for Chinese high-powered AI chip developer Enflame

Enflame

Chinese tech giant Tencent has helped fund a $278.5 million funding round in Shanghai-based artificial intelligence chip developer Enflame Technology. Tencent has been part of every Enflame funding round since the startup was founded in 2018, including leading the $48 million pre-series A round. The continual cash infusion is part of China’s escalating research and investment into AI and chipset creation as competition with tech firms outside of the country heats up.

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