SoundHound AI buys online food ordering platform Allset

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SoundHound AI has enhanced its AI-based food ordering capabilities with the acquisition of Allset, an online ordering platform that connects restaurants and local customers.

Financial terms of the deal, announced Thursday, were undisclosed.

Allset is a food ordering platform designed for local pick-up, working with nearly 7,000 restaurant partners nationwide, including Joe & The Juice and Charleys Cheesesteaks.

Speech-to-meaning

SoundHound, a voice AI and speech recognition company, was founded in 2005 and went public in 2022. The company develops speech recognition, natural language understanding, music recognition, and search technologies.

In 2023, SoundHound generated $45.9 million in revenue, a 47% year-on-year increase. The vendor is growing but not yet profitable.

As part of Nvidia’s broader strategy of investing in AI-related tech companies, the chip maker has invested $3.7 million into SoundHound, in return for a 0.6% stake.

SoundHound’s Vehicle Intelligence product, powered by Nvidia Drive, allows drivers to ask questions related to maintenance, safety, and other vehicle-specific information using natural speech.

SoundHound markets itself as an independent voice AI platform, offering customers the ability to create their own branded voice experiences rather than relying on voice assistants from bigger vendors.

Allset

SoundHound said the deal to buy Allset will advance its plans to enable voice-enabled food and drink ordering across millions of cars, TVs, and smart devices. Its voice ordering technology works across multiple channels, including via phone, drive-thru, kiosk, and mobile app.

More than 10,000 restaurant locations use SoundHound’s platform to understand speech in a range of major languages, learn any restaurant’s menu, process orders directly to the point of sale (POS), and answer customer FAQs.

“Allset will help SoundHound bring voice AI solutions to even more restaurants looking to improve operational efficiency,” Keyvan Mohajer, CEO and co-founder of SoundHound AI, said in a statement on the deal.

For example, SoundHound has been working with White Castle, the US-based fast-food hamburger joint, to offer voice AI ordering technology at select White Castle drive-thrus for a year, with plans to roll out the technology to 100 locations by the end of 2024.

Many in the fast-food industry are looking to use AI technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Using an AI system that provides a consistent, interactive ordering experience is a big ask.

Super size snags at McD’s

McDonald’s recently ended its trial of AI-powered drive-thru technology developed in partnership with IBM. McDonald’s had been testing IBM’s AI-powered voice recognition technology at around 100 US drive-thru locations for around two years.

The technology has numerous glitches, chiefly around the misinterpretation of customers’ orders to sometimes comical effect.

Hard to swallow mistakes included adding bacon to ice cream and putting excessive quantities of items on orders (e.g., hundreds of chicken nuggets on a single order). People took to social media with tales of “fighting the McDonald’s robot” and similar.

The automated order taking system — which evidently had problems picking up on accents and dialects, noise and cross-talk from neighboring drive-thru stations — will be dropped from the end of July, Restaurant Business reported.

IBM has yet to respond to a request for comment from Computerworld but reportedly said it looks forward to working with the fast food restaurant chain on a variety of projects in the future.

Bill Conner, CEO of mobile technology developer Jitterbug, told Computerworld that teething problems with new technologies are to be expected. Waiting for technologies to mature is unwise, since slow adoption of AI technology is likely to leave businesses at a competitive disadvantage, Conner argued.

“The future of application development, orchestration, and automation is based on an AI evolution, not a revolution,” Conner said. “Even the most agile organizations need a smart, measured approach to infusing AI capabilities into their business and infrastructure.”

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