3M New Ventures, the venture arm of 3M Company, is investing in and collaborating with VocalZoom, a three-year-old maker of speech enhancement technology based in Israel. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Today 3M Company, through its corporate venture organization 3M New Ventures, and VocalZoom Ltd., a leading developer of speech enhancement technology that enables voice communication and recognition in any environment, announced an equity investment and collaboration that will bring a new class of voice-enabled user interfaces to a broad range of customers. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“While touch capability has become the defacto standard for user interfaces, voice activation is also gaining more and more momentum to enable hands-free operation of state-of-the-art devices. VocalZoom’s technology will accelerate this trend by enabling the use of voice in even the most demanding environments,” said Yechiel Kurtz, chairman of VocalZoom. “3M’s investment and collaboration provides us with new and exciting opportunities, such as integration of our sub-system into 3M’s display and touch technology as well as a broad range of additional applications.”
VocalZoom was founded in 2009 with the mission to enable use of speech for communication and voice activation purposes in any natural environment, by developing an optoelectronic microphone that significantly improves the speaker’s understanding in any noisy environment. While conventional approaches focus on filtering and signal processing to isolate the voice from ambient noise, VocalZoom is applying its patented technology that integrates a standard acoustic microphone and a special optical sensor to solely detect the speaker’s voice. The benefits are essential for next generation user interfaces, providing high directivity, speaker isolation, improved signal quality, and precise voice activity detection.
“For voice activation to become ubiquitous it must seamlessly work in any environment regardless of the level of background noise. VocalZoom is a critical enabler for a new generation of user interfaces that do not just rely on touch or gestures but also on our voice to input data,” said Stefan Gabriel, president of 3M New Ventures. “The investment in VocalZoom will help us to complement our existing technology in this field, and to collaboratively develop new products for our OEM customers.”
“We see a great variety of applications in which people may prefer voice as a means to interact with their personal device environment, including their industrial work places, hospitals, or commercial kiosks, and even consumer electronics,” said Robert Visser, vice president of research and development of 3M’s Energy and Electronics business group. “VocalZoom’s signal capturing system adds a critical component to 3M’s technology portfolio in user interfaces and acoustics to enable novel solutions for those spaces.”
“Israel is one of the most vibrant technical and entrepreneurial regions in the world and there are plenty of opportunities for 3M. VocalZoom is our very first investment and we look forward to other investments in Israeli high tech startups,” said Nir Leshem, managing director of 3M Israel.
3M New Ventures, headquartered in Munich, Germany, identifies and invests in highly innovative companies and disruptive new technologies with strategic relevance for 3M.
VocalZoom, based in Yokneam Israel, was founded in 2009 with the mission to enable Voice Communications and Voice Recognition in virtually any environment. Its unique OptoElectric speech-enhancement microphone provides the means to maintain high recognition rates under any noisy conditions, a key element for realizing the potential of speech as a leading Natural User Interface.For more information, visit www.vocalzoom.com
3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 84,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 65 countries. For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNews on Twitter.