Isn’t it cool that you can text while you drive without having to type a single word? Sonalight is a powerful voice controlled application that lets you send and recieve text messages. Spenser Skates, the Founder calls it “Siri on Steroids”. Sonalight aims to make our lives easier and reduces the fatal deaths on the drive.
Startups.fm spoke to Spenser Skates on Sonalight and its speech recognition technology.
What is the mission behind “Sonalight” app?
We want to change the way people interact with technology through voice. In Star Trek, no one presses a button to activate voice control, they just talk to the computer!
Sonalight is a happy news for Android users who could not use or afford “Siri”. What is your take on this?
Absolutely, it’s great for Android users who want an even better alternative for texting. We’re Siri on steroids.
The technology behind Sonalight does help users on the go. So do you feel that automation is the future?
Yes, definitely! The less people have to worry about how they use computers the more time they’ll have for the more important things in their life. Using a computer shouldn’t be an exercise in frustration- we want to make it easier through voice control.
How is Sonalight different from Siri?
Sonalight is entirely hands free- you don’t need to pick up the phone, press any buttons, or even take it out of your pocket for it to work! It’s also eyes free- you don’t need to read what’s on the screen to know what’s going on or when to talk. We only help with texting and calling at the moment, but you’ll be sure to see more down the line.
Can you give us a brief insight into the core technology used in Sonalight?
Sonalight is built on two different voice recognition engines- one is CMU Sphinx, which is an open source library we’ve customized for our app Text by Voice. The other is Google’s recognition, which is part of the Android SDK. We’ve wrapped these components together on a phone along with a lot of user interface work in order to create the seamless user experience you see when you use Text by Voice.
Tell us about your team and your startup. How was it to be in YC?
There’s two of us working on it at the moment. It’s a hard technology to get right- the first iteration of it was a total mess and we’ve come a long way since then. We had the good opportunity to do the YCombinator program. It was fantastic, PG and the other partners were very helpful, along with the other startups in our class, and the alumni network. I would highly recommend applying to anyone who’s doing a startup for the first time.
How is Sonalight a “trade-off” when it comes to usability?
It’s about 5-7% of the total battery life per hour when the app is running in the background. We’re going to get this down further though in the coming months!
What is your target in the next few years? How are you planning to engage your users?
After we solve texting and driving on Android, we’re going to be the way that you can use voice with email, maps, and search. After that, it’s not just about controlling your phone through voice, it’s about voice in your car, on your TV, on your computer, and even in your thermostat.
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