Customers placing an order at a Krispy Kreme or White Castle drive-through, or on the Chipotle app, might find that artificial intelligence is on the receiving end.
In the latest addition to AI-assisted customer service, SoundHound AI Inc. SOUN,
“What do they have in ‘Star Trek’ that we can do? Teleportation would be an amazing product, but not yet. We are inspired by ‘Star Trek’ and the promise of speaking naturally with devices around us,” Keyvan Mohajer, the co-founder and chief executive of SoundHound AI, said in an interview.
Last week, SoundHound snapped up SYNQ3 Restaurant Solutions, a startup that describes itself as a “voice AI for restaurants,” for $25 million. SYNQ3’s technology is designed for everything from drive-throughs to in-store ordering and is used in more than 10,000 restaurants in the U.S.
“It is very interactive, frees up employees, helped with order accuracy, and customers like it,” Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle Management Co., said in an interview.
Customers at 15 White Castle drive-through locations order via a speaker and console screen called “Julia.” A display of the order appears onscreen, where users can correct or modify their selections. The company plans to expand Julia to 100 locations by the end of 2024.
The 18-year-old SoundHound got its start with a voice-based assistant to help identify the name of a song and artist, then began working with a handful of carmakers, including Hyundai Motor Co. 005380,
“Our partnership with SoundHound opens up possibilities for us to push the capabilities of voice inside Genesis, Hyundai and Kia vehicles and enhance our customers’ driving experiences beyond what is possible today,” said Paul Choo, executive vice president of the Infotainment Development Center at Hyundai.
SoundHound has been building sales momentum of late, with $13.3 million in the third quarter, up 52% from the previous quarter.
“I’ve always wanted to pursue AI,” said Mohajer, who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and holds more than 90 patents related to voice technology.
“Investors were scared away when I told them this technology would take 10 years,” he said, “but once it took place, we have $500 million in funding, and we’ve been approached more than 10 times about being acquired.”