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At the start of July, LG Electronics (LG) announced a partnership with artificial intelligence (AI) company Soundhound AI, to develop an advanced voice AI technology platform for the next-generation of infotainment systems.

The technology enables passengers to experience conversational voice control, allowing them to pay for fuel, order food directly from the vehicle, find parking and much more via the microphone and infotainment display.

The introduction of this technology into vehicles offers consumers the ability to perform a variety of tasks hands-free without taking their eyes off the road as well as enhancing the overall passenger experience.

We spoke to the company’s co-founder and chief product officer, James Hom to find out more.

James Hom

Just Auto (JA): Could you provide me with some background on your role at the company and what this involves?

James Hom (JH): I’m a co-founder of SoundHound. I met CEO, Keyvan Mohajer, and Chief Science Officer, Majid Emami, while I was studying Computer Science at Stanford University back in the early 2000s.

I now hold the position of chief product officer, which means that I lead on all product development and advancement for our voice AI platform, as well as multiple B2C products, reaching hundreds of millions of end-users.

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How did the partnership with LG come about?

SoundHound and LG share a mission to revolutionize the in-car experience for drivers, and we do that by providing OEMs with smart, user-friendly technology that opens up new opportunities for car owners and manufacturers alike.

In developing its new in-vehicle infotainment systems, LG wanted to work with ambitious and innovative partners, and we’re delighted that our advanced voice AI married so well with their own state-of-the-art vehicle tech.

Could you explain what the partnership aims to achieve for the automotive industry?

We’re at a tipping point when it comes to the way we interact with all the technology around us. As consumers, we have more devices with more features than ever and it’s increasingly important we find a simple, universal way to control them. And what could be more natural than by using our voice, just like when we speak to another person?

With safety concerns at the fore, voice AI is the perfect fit for automotive. Yet, often the experience is still clunky and unsatisfying for users, which can defeat the objective.

At SoundHound we believe our advanced AI platform provides a much more natural, conversational experience. Our voice AI can understand complex and compound queries, and our Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technology improves the speed and accuracy of responses.

This is complemented by our breakthrough Edge+Cloud and Active Arbitration technology, which can deliver a query to the cloud and the embedded system and select the best response, fast. This provides a more reliable experience, plus having both edge and cloud connectivity also allows for uninterrupted access to navigation and full in-car control, with or without a cloud connection.

LG recognized that our technology would be a great fit for their next-generation infotainment system, which is designed to inspire the automotive industry when it comes to what’s possible. Ultimately, they want to drive the future of mobility and make lives better, and SoundHound shares that vision.

What benefits does the SoundHound voice AI technology bring to the automotive industry?

The benefits are really two-fold. For drivers and their passengers, our voice AI is best-in-class. We build it differently, using proprietary technology.

While most voice technology is optimised for text and search, we optimise for speech itself. This means the technology can work swiftly and accurately, deriving meaning from the speaker as they’re talking. In practice, this allows for more natural conversation. For example, a user can simply say: “I’m hungry” and it’s understood that they want to order food, or use a complex query such as: “Find Italian restaurants in San Francisco that are kid friendly, but exclude pizza shops.”

For OEMs and customers alike, our technology also opens the door to voice commerce and a broader voice-enabled ecosystem through our partner network. For automakers, this can introduce revenue streams with further opportunities to personalise and recommend through new kinds of customer data (where they consent).

For customers, it means that through voice-enabled commands they’ll be able to effortlessly pay for gas, or parking, or order food on the way home. It’s a whole new level of convenience.

It’s also worth noting that SoundHound is an independent platform, not a Big Tech voice assistant. We sit in the background powering the technology, while the OEM is free to customize and build out their voice AI to fit their brand identity.

We also allow them full access to any data, which isn’t always the case with other options. Having control over this data means manufacturers can gain valuable insights and also be transparent with their customers about privacy and how that data is used.

What do you see the future looking like when considering this technology?

The conditions are ripe for the next evolution of voice technology in automotive. Users are no longer satisfied with basic, keyword-dependent voice assistants.

Brands want to deliver truly immersive, digital experiences. Already, the ease and convenience of in-car voice assistants have become a differentiator for buyers looking for their next vehicle. Add to this the possibilities for voice commerce and the convenience it brings—the opportunities are endless.