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SoundHound sings new tune on Android with “Hound” voice recognition app

by Brad Spirrison

With the ambitious goal of transforming search-based “user behavior to another dimension”, SoundHound today unveils a new voice recognition app simply called Hound. And, at least for the time being, you can only speak into the free app on Android-based devices.

“We want to focus on what will be a revolution in user habits over the next decade,” said SoundHound vice president Katie McMahon, adding that she believes voice-based commands will replace touchscreens as the primary way to interface with mobile media devices in the not-too-distant future.

SoundHound is actually one of the few mobile media companies on the planet that can credibly claim that it is developing technology that can change the world. Before “app” became a household name in early 2008, SoundHound, then known as Midomi, pioneered search and sound recognition technology used within mobile devices.

The technology quickly and whimsically recognizes songs played and sung within close proximity, and then provides further contextual information on the songs and of course the ability to purchase them. The company’s SoundHound paid and free apps -- available on Android, iOS and other platforms - are universally recognized as among the best apps ever developed.

Hound, says McMahon, is the next significant step in the company’s efforts to widen its voice-based search capabilities. While Hound at launch is limited to identifying songs by band, title or album -- “(the) road map is based on being very smart to leverage what users are doing,” she said -- the plan is to expand into other categories in the months and years ahead.

Competitive landscape and the “really wow moment”

When asked how SoundHound will compete with voice search efforts by Google and the Apple-owned Siri Assistant, McMahon said the company is targeting “virgin territory” as the vast majority of consumers have either never tried to search for things on their mobile devices or are dissatisfied with existing services.

“User behavior has not even dawned yet, and the timing is right for streamlined search,” she said. “Beyond being fast and delightful, (the app) has to have ‘a really wow moment.’”

So how well does it work?

I had a lot of fun playing around with a beta copy of the app provided by SoundHound. While not always perfect -- a query for “Bob Dylan, Forever Young” took an eternity to offer up any results and eventually timed out -- by in large the app worked quickly and provided accurate and comprehensive results. Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” took less time to load than to say.

The search landing page looks and feels very much like that found in the existing SoundHound app, which also happens to carry much of the same spoken word functionality.

The bigger test will be how well SoundHound expands its capabilities outside of music discovery.

Another major developer endorses a dual-platform launch

SoundHound's marketing plan is geared around a dual-launch for on Android and iOS.

“Being able to build and launch in a certain time frame is one advantage,” McMahon said.

San Jose-based SoundHound, which was founded in 2005, has raised more than $11 million in venture capital financing and is backed by Global Catalyst Partners, TRANSLINK Capital, Walden Venture Capital, JAIC America, MIDZAD and Felecis Ventures.