Voice AI startup hires Google's text-to-speech leader
Voysis, a developer of a voice-driven artificial intelligence platform, has hired Ian Hodson, former leader of Google’s global text-to-speech efforts, to serve as Distinguished Architect for the startup, Voysis announced in a blog post.
Hodson had been with Google since 2010, when the Internet giant acquired Phonetic Arts, a company he had co-founded. Leading the Google Text to Speech team, Hodson steered the development of technology used in Google Assistant and other products.
Hodson, who has worked in the voice technology industry for more than 20 years, said in a statement, “Given my career to date, I have a deep appreciation and respect for the magnitude of the challenges that companies across all industries face in a ‘voice-first’ world. I joined the Voysis team because of the company's impressive understanding of these challenges and its platform approach, which uniquely positions them to deliver.”
Voysis earlier this year announced an $8 million funding round as it looked to advance its take of voice AI, which involved voice-activated shopping and navigation of e-commerce sites. At the time, it looked like a very small company set to take on giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft, all of which have their own well-established voice-driven, AI-enabled virtual assistants.
Fast forward about three months later — and well, this company is still very small, but it just made a very big hiring that should force all of the above giants to sit up and take notice. Hodson worked directly on Google Assistant, Google's horse in the voice-driven AI race, as well as Google Maps and other products. In a statement, Voysis stated that he also "was responsible for integrating the team and technology into Google’s voice services and led all recruiting efforts for the team for over a five year period."
Peter Cahill, CEO and founder of Voysis, added, “Ian is renowned for his domain knowledge and mentoring skills and is regarded by many leading scientists and engineers in this space as the very best at what he does. Ian's breadth of in-domain experience at companies both small and large will no doubt have an impact on all aspects of the company."
It will be interesting to see how Hodson's hiring directly affects the ability of Voysis to woo other talented engineers to support its cause. It also will be worth watching Google closely in the weeks and months ahead to see if Hodson's departure triggers other departures, or perhaps inspires Google to bring more talent and technology in-house via acquisition to bolster its efforts with Google Assistant.
The age of voice-driven shopping assistance is just getting started, and while Amazon Alexa has provided a market-leading model for others to chase, there remains room for other technologies and approaches, and Voysis just announced itself as a contender.