Siri’s got nothing on SoundHound’s new app

Voice-activated digital sidekicks like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana might want to think about going back to finishing school and fine-tuning their skills.

The Hound’s in town.

Santa Clara-based SoundHound, already known for its Shazam-like what’s-the-name-of-that-song feature, is getting into the digital-assistant business with its new app called Hound. As the Wall Street Journal points out:

In a demo, [SoundHound founder and CEO Keyvan Mohajer] showed how the app handles a natural-language voice search that included multiple questions but was short on important, identifiable terms. One example: “What is the population of the capital of the country in which the Space Needle is located?”

The example ultimately is asking for the population of an indirectly defined place. It throws in questions about what country the Space Needle is located – presuming the app knows what the Space Needle is – and what the capital of that country is. Hound was able to correctly give the population of Washington, D.C.

When I tried that question out on Siri, she not only DIDN’T answer it correctly, but she mistakenly gave me the Wikipedia page for Seattle. What’s even more embarrassing, Siri pulled up the Wall Street Journal story that contained that question in the first place.

Talk about lazy.

In a blog post, Wired says SoundHound has been working away on the app for almost ten years, even as it tweaked and improved its flagship song-identification software. And the VC-funded company is hoping to see Hound’s services very soon “inside every phone, tablet, car, toaster, and espresso machine on the planet.”

Hound is currently available only in English and, for now, only in private beta for Android devices. But Hound’s masters have plans to release an iOS app soon. And judging by the demo, I can’t wait to take Hound for a nice long walk.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

Hound can calculate a monthly mortgage payment based on someone speaking the interest rate, term and size of a loan, Mohajer said. But it shares a lot in common with its digital-assistant rivals. People can wake the app by saying “OK Hound” or by pressing a button in the app, and then ask questions involving a wide range of subject matter, such as reference, navigation, weather and local business.

So now the race is REALLY on in the digital-assistant arena. Hound will go up against Siri and Cortana — along with Google Now, Viv and Dragon Mobile Assistant — on a very public stage in front of a very unforgiving audience whose members, like me, will ditch the also-rans in favor of the app that can best get us what we want the minute we want it.

Above: Screen grab from SoundHound


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