Expect Labs has already received funding from the likes of Google Ventures and Greylock Partners, but the San Francisco-based startup (and TechCrunch Disrupt alum) announced this morning that Intel Capital, Samsung Ventures, and Telefonica Digital have made their own strategic investments in the company.
In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on Expect Labs, well, you should be. It was founded by Tim Tuttle and Moninder Jheeta in 2011, and since then the team has been tackling a hefty problem — they want to be able to listen to and analyze your conversations as they happen, and surface relevant information right at the moment you need it without you having to search for it.
Granted, some of these new strategic partners are more surprising than others. Our own Jordan Crook sat down with Intel Capital president Arvind Sodhani back in March, who revealed that the chipmaker’s venture arm had indeed invested in Expect Labs and strongly hinted that Intel would lean on the startup’s Anticipatory Computing Engine to bring what Intel refers to as “sophisticated voice control” to ultrabooks. Tuttle naturally wouldn’t confirm whether ultrabooks in particular would soon benefit from Expect Labs tech, but noted that Intel is “trying to develop more expertise in software” and realizes that voice, touch, and gestures will become dominant modes of interaction with new devices.
At first glance, Samsung’s interest in Expect Labs and its thoughtful approach to surfacing information seems like a no-brainer. As seen in blockbuster devices like the Galaxy S4, the Korean electronics giant has sought to stay at the front of the smartphone pack by packing its smartphones full of first-party software like the S Voice assistant. That sort of approach hasn’t always been very well-received, but baking the ability to chew on conversations and spit out information on subjects users have just spoken about into yet another Samsung app would be a very savvy move for a company that’s continually looking to push the envelope on software. It’s not just smartphones that will benefit either — Tuttle specifically calls out smart TVs as a potential recipient of Expect Labs tech.
Telefonica seems like a much more interesting case — it’s the fifth largest mobile network operator in the world with roughly 315 million customers across Europe and the Americas. To date Expect Labs has shown off the proactive power of its Anticipatory Computing Engine in app form, but that sort of approach simply wouldn’t work for many of Telefonica’s subscribers since a considerable chunk of them in developing and mature markets don’t own smartphones.
That’s not a problem, according to Tuttle. In fact, he views his sort of voice-centric tech as a “godsend” for telecoms like Telefonica. He envisioned a phone conversation (that could happen “very soon”) with someone about meeting at restaurant down the street — once the call is done, the phone can display a link to a map for the restaurant right within the dialer.
This buy-in from some very prominent partners speaks to the stickiness of Expect Labs’ vision of the future of computing. According to co-founder and CEO Tim Tuttle, we’re poised to see a dramatic shift in what sorts of devices we interact with and how we interact with them.
“We’re heading quickly toward this world where all of the devices around you will be listening to you,” Tuttle explained. That’s not to say that traditional modes of technological interaction is bound for extinction — Tuttle concedes that the keyboard and mouse aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but information won’t just be accessible from select locations.
“The issue is the places where computing devices show up in our lives aren’t just on our desks, they’ll be all over the place,” Tuttle said. “In all these cases you’re going to want to access your information without going to your desk.”
Now that Expect Labs has some additional capital to work with, Tuttle wants to expand the team (which currently consists of 12 people). Tuttle and rest of Expect Labs have made some astonishing progress over the past few months, but they’ve had to shift their priorities around too. Consider the fan-favorite MindMeld iPad app that Expect Labs showed off at Disrupt SF 2012: it’s still around, but the public launch the startup has been talking up for so long is no longer something they’re trying to do immediately.