UK startup AudioTelligence has raised £6.5m in a Series A funding round to expand the licensing activity of its “autofocus for sound” software, which enables voice assistants to focus on speech amid background noise.

Founded in 2017 as a spin-out from Cambridge-founded CEDAR Audio, the startup’s technology uses “blind audio signal separation” to focus on relevant sound. Its technology is available on a license basis and is compatible with voice assistants, smart speakers, smart TVs and two-way voice calls.

The Cambridge-based firm said it will use the investment to develop its product, create new partnerships and triple headcount over the next three years. CEDAR Audio also participated in the funding round.

The funding round was led by venture capital firm Octopus Ventures and included investment from previous backers Cambridge Innovation Capital and Cambridge Enterprise, who previously invested £3.1m in 2018.

Its technology was recently demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.

Sentence recognition accuracy for a home assistant in noisy environments improved from 22% to 94%, AudioTelligence claims.

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Its algorithm does not need to be trained by the user, the company adds, and can adapt if new noises appear.

AudioTelligence sets sights on lucrative voice market

Ken Roberts, CEO and founder of AudioTelligence, commented:

“Voice command systems work reasonably well when the audio scene is quiet, but performance deteriorates rapidly once you have multiple people talking or when there’s background music. The number of applications where our technology is needed is enormous and still growing every day.

“We’ve already seen some great results from real-world testing and this investment will fund further product development to ensure we can all communicate clearly with the next generation of smart consumer devices and each other.”

The use of voice assistants is set to triple to 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, according to analyst firm Juniper Research. And with consumers increasingly ready to replace store or bank visits with voice assistants over the next few years, technology firms are eager to enter the voice technology market.

Zoe Chambers, early stage investor at Octopus Ventures, said:

“In today’s hyper-connected world voice-activated technologies are becoming increasingly prevalent, a trend we expect to continue. That’s why AudioTelligence’s technology is so exciting, as it drastically improves the accuracy and user experience of human-machine interactions.”

Read more: Behavioral Signals: AI that predicts if you’re going to buy from the emotion in your voice