Amazon invests in voice recognition startup Pulse Labs
Voice control faces multiple challenges. It’s still a relatively new technology and it’s dogged by the inaccuracy of previous implementations. People are also sceptical that they really need or want voice control. Until this new breed of apps can prove they are faster than regular touchscreen interfaces, users will keep falling back to what they know and trust.

Enter Pulse Labs, a new startup that is working with voice app developers to test out new apps on a target audience before publicly launching. The aim is to get feedback from real people that can improve voice apps — called Alexa Skills on Amazon’s platform and Actions on Google’s platform — so they have a better chance at success when they become available to the masses.

Not surprisingly, the work Pulse Labs is doing has caught the attention of two parties that have a lot riding on Alexa’s success: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

So Bezos, through his investment fund Bezos Expeditions, and the Alexa Fund have invested in a $2.5 million seed round for Pulse Labs led by the Seattle-based venture firm Madrona Venture Group. Techstars Ventures also participated in the round.

Pulse works with Alexa app developers today and will start doing work with Google app developers later this quarter. The startup has built an online panel of testers who get compensated in exchange for trying out and providing feedback on their experiences with certain voice apps.

Pulse Labs has now raised $2.5 million in seed funding round led by Madrona Venture Group $, along with Techstars and, notably, the Amazon Alexa Fund and Bezos Expeditions, which have a clear vested interest in building better voice assistant experiences. Amazon clearly stands to benefit if Pulse Labs is successful in increasing consumer adoption of voice-based apps. The company’s Alexa assistant has over 30,000 skills but still needs users to keep coming back.

 Pulse Labs is currently accepting applications from interested app developers and voice app testers. Once approved, testers will be invited to try out new voice apps ahead of their public launch. In return, they’ll receive compensation for completing surveys about their experience. The company’s also preparing to extend its service to work with Google Assistant too, enabling app developers to target both major digital assistant ecosystems.


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