Seed: Hi Auto receives $4.5 million for noise-free voice recording
Tel Aviv — Israeli start-up Hi Auto will unveil the world’s first audio-visual commercial solution for background noise-free speaker recording and speech enhancement. The company has completed a seed phase with a $4.5 million investment led by Israeli auto importer Delek Motors and Hi Auto’s acting chairman Zohar Zisapel (pictured).
Other investors included Allied Holdings (holding company of auto importer Champion Motors), Singapore-based Goldbell Group, a leader in industrial vehicle sales and leasing, and Plug & Play, which works with automotive partners to innovate.
Hi Auto plans to use the seed stage funds to complete development of its first product, launch distribution and expand its team.
Speech recognition platforms are currently struggling with the problem of poor recognition rates in noisy environments, such as when there are children in the back seat of a car, an ambulance drives by, or it is raining heavily. Hi Auto’s audiovisual solution eliminates all noise and ensures that the speech recognition platform works reliably in all noise conditions.
The novel solution can be used in a wide range of use cases in various fields where speech recognition and clearly intelligible conversations are required, such as in the automotive industry, contact centers, video conferencing, or robots serving customers in the hospitality industry. Currently, Hi Auto is focused on the automotive sector and envisions the new technology as a solution to the problem of voice-based vehicle control.
Hi Auto is based in Tel Aviv and was founded in February 2019 by CEO Roy Baharav, CTO Eyal Shapira and Zohar Zisapel, who serves as the company’s acting chairman and investor. Baharav recently returned to Israel after living on the West Coast of the United States for 12 years. There he held various product management positions at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California, as well as CEO of SeamBI, a company he founded in 2006. In the past, he held senior positions in an elite intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), such as commander of a division of 40 engineers and technical experts.
Eyal Shapira also commanded a detachment of some 40 engineers and specialists in an elite IDF technology unit, in which he served and was awarded the Israel Defense Prize. After his military service, Shapira was a founder and administrator of start-up companies and a consultant for companies such as Intel and Broadcom. Zohar Zisapel, a major investor in the automotive sector, is one of Israel’s best-known high-tech entrepreneurs and managers. Zisapel helped found and is chairman of some of Israel’s best-known automotive start-ups, including Hailo, Argus and Innoviz.
Hi Auto will unveil a prototype of the world’s first commercial driver voice recognition solution, which separates the driver’s voice from all other voices in the vehicle, as well as noises inside and outside the vehicle, or hides all background noise, at CES 2020 in Las Vegas from Jan. 7–10. Thus, for the first time, such a solution is coming to the market that combines a microphone placed in front of the intended speaker with a camera that tracks his or her lips. The system is based on a deep-learning software program installed on the device that eliminates noise, which cannot be achieved by using audio techniques alone. The company has already established contacts with leading automotive companies, which are expected to test its technology in early 2020.
“Whether for use in purchasing train tickets, navigation control or lane change commands, voice recognition is rapidly becoming the most popular device control method almost everywhere in the world,” said Roy Baharav, CEO and co-founder of Hi Auto. “However, when the devices are operated in environments with multiple speakers or in noisy environments, their reliability decreases dramatically. Our audiovisual solution is able to focus on the speaker and remove all background noise, making it sound like they are in a recording studio. Our solution will make the experience around speech recognition in the car, as well as in other environments, more satisfying for consumers and enable the introduction of more complex and sensitive features by original equipment manufacturers.”