The Voice Lab, a French association dedicated to voice, has announced that it has obtained 4.7 million euros in funding from Bpifrance, the French public investment bank. These funds will enable the company to take a further step in the development of an independent voice offer. The proposed project is a marketplace offering several voice solutions: voice recognition applications, voice assistants, subtitling software and assistance for the hearing impaired.
The “Voice Lab” association to offer voice and sound solutions
The VoiceLab is a French association dedicated to voice founded in 2019. It brings together several academic, public and private players, with the aim of proposing a rich offer of its own solutions and referencing pure players and thus, promoting the dissemination of technologies related to sound and voice. For the Voice Lab, voice data is a major issue for the future for reasons of security and data confidentiality, but also because voice will be, according to them, one of the main communication interfaces in the future.
Thanks to its initiatives, the association is a winner of the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (PIA) and of the call for projects “Mutualisation de moyens au service des filières et plateformes numériques de filières”. The Voice Lab’s objective is to contribute to the development of a voice service data marketplace and thus to promote the sharing of voice data on a national scale. The Voice Lab wants the voice data sector to be economically controlled in order to guarantee the sovereignty of French and European players.
A project to stand out from the digital giants
The Voice Lab’s proposed project has three objectives:
- Create a French corpus of 100,000 hours of voice data and share this voice data in a neutral and secure space.
- Create a speech recognition engine.
- Create a French and/or European market place for voice services.
With this project, the association wants to bridge the potential gap that can be created between the digital giants and smaller players. Their solution is to come together to define new economic and technological models to offer alternatives and a complete offer if possible. This is what Karel Bourgois, President of Voice Lab, argues in his words:
“The pooling of data makes it possible to design French-language speech recognition models to feed various automatic speech transcription services, among other open sources. The engines thus enable various players – academic, private or public – to create voice services or products in complete independence from GAFAM. French laboratories and private players will thus be able to overcome many obstacles, particularly those related to the volume and diversity of available data. The Voice Lab’s mission is to create an alternative to existing solutions and business models, in order to guarantee on the one hand the respect of users’ privacy and on the other hand to prevent an economic dependence on GAFA and BATX on the voice interfaces that will be the interfaces of the future.”
Several Voice Lab member companies are behind the project: Aday, Batvoice, Kwalys, Linagora as well as Voxist.
A marketplace of digital voice solutions
Among the products and services that can be designed and then made available on the marketplace are:
- Applications of voice recognition that are essential in many fields and professions and are also the basis for progress in terms of accessibility (visual and hearing disabilities, illegibility).
- The creation of embedded voice assistants.
- The creation of voice assistants for telephones or connected speakers.
- Tools for understanding telephone conversations with a teleconsultant.
- Help for the hearing impaired.
- Subtitling and media monitoring tools.
Katya Lainé, Vice President of the Le Voice Lab Association, spoke about the design of this marketplace and the advantages it can offer:
“As for the Voice Services Marketplace, it will allow any actor to access and consume data, engines and any other service in a simple and intuitive way to create and manage voice projects. The marketplace will give all the players in the voice ecosystem the opportunity to reference each other and co-create this rich and independent offer, and will also give companies that “consume” these services the opportunity to have a trusted technical and economic third party. The support of the French State, as well as the support of the project with the significant investment of the BPI to the tune of €4.7M are a strong signal for us that the construction of the independence of the French offer must continue.”
Several players are supporting the organization’s marketplace project: the French General Directorate of Enterprises (DGE), the Ministry of Finance and Economy, Huma-Num and the France IA Hub.