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Snap acquires AI-based voice agent platform

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The social media giant reportedly spent $70 million on the deal

Snap, the company responsible for Snapchat, has purchased another AI-focused startup.

As reported by Calcalist, the messaging giant has acquired Israel-based for an estimated $70 million – a move that could see Snap expand its business service offerings to tap further into the consumer market.

Founded in 2017, Voca develops call center voice assistants made to mimic the qualities and capabilities of human agents. The platform’s ‘speech-to-intent’ algorithm enables a two-way conversation that’s designed to sound more human.

During a conversation with a customer, the Voca Agent is able to adjust its voice, language, accent and tone, as well as dynamically provide responses that will either satisfy the customer’s query, or ensure they’re passed through to a suitable human agent.

The company has raised just $6 million to date, but its backers include the likes of American Express Ventures and Flint Capital. The company says it is processing around two million conversations a month across banking, telecoms and legal services, with a roster of customers that include Toshiba, FirstClass Capital and Boost Health insurance, among others.

A logical move

Those involved in the acquisition have yet to release any official statements on the deal. The story was leaked to Calcalist by an insider on the condition of anonymity, although it does appear that all 35 employees of Voca will be integrated into Snap.

The social media company registered 52% growth this past quarter, with $679 million in its business arm. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic moving huge – and often overwhelming – volumes of everyday business online, providing a smarter interface between businesses and their customers is certainly a potential growth area.

Of course, Snap may well choose to keep the platform for its own customer base. Its hardware effort, Spectacles, allows users to apply AR filters to their surroundings and take pictures to share on Snapchat. It uses a voice command function, but could Voca’s platform make it better?

In recent years, Snap has picked up a number of AI startups including Looksery, Cimagine and AI Factory, although these outfits have focused more on computer vision. Rounding out its efforts with a voice-based platform demonstrates that the company is putting AI front and center.

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