Two years after announcing voice chat was coming to Roblox, the gaming company has acquired a voice tech startup, Speechly, offering voice chat moderation, real-time transcription and Voice API that lets companies add AI voice technology and voice interfaces to their products and experiences.
The Helsinki, Finland-based startup Speechly was founded in 2016 with the mission of enabling better computer voice interactions and communication between people online, resulting in the creation of its real-time voice moderation tech that helps reduce toxic behavior in online communities. According to its own study, nearly 70% of gamers have used voice chat at least once. But of those, 72% said they’ve experienced a toxic incident.
Roblox, meanwhile, has been expanding into voice chat-based interactions, initially by allowing developers to add voice to their games and other experiences. Instead of text bubbles that appeared over the avatar’s heads, players would be able to naturally talk to one another in real time. More recently, the company announced avatar-based voice calls with facial motion tracking, which lets Roblox users connect in a virtual space and chat live. The latter is part of Roblox’s broader efforts to cater to its aging user base by offering content and experiences for users ages 17 and up.
Speechly will help Roblox in these and other efforts by offering AI moderation tools that can handle real-time voice communication.
“Roblox is building the leading platform for 3D immersive communication and connection. Everyday 65.5 million daily active users of all ages come to Roblox to be together, experience, and create memories with friends. With the addition of new voice features, including voice chat, Roblox is solving new challenges—moderating spoken language in real time,” wrote Speechly co-founder and CTO Hannes Heikinheimo in a blog post.
“Safety and civility are foundational to Roblox. We are excited to be joining a company dedicated to safety and civility and to use our AI expertise to evolve traditional methods of moderation to meet the scale, real-time, and dynamic needs of a user-generated content (UGC) platform,” he added.
Speechly is a Y Combinator-backed company whose investors include Seedcamp, SNÖ Ventures, TQ Ventures, Berlin’s Cherry Ventures, Quantum Angels, Joyance Partners, Social Starts, Tiny.vc, Juha Paananen and Nicolas Dessaigne. According to Pitchbook, the company raised $7.53 million in outside capital.
The startup raised a €2 million seed round in 2019. Ahead of its acquisition, the company received SOC 2 Type II certification, which ensures its client data is handled with security, integrity and confidentiality while respecting customer privacy. This likely made it an even more attractive acquisition target.
The news was announced on Speechly’s blog and first reported by Voicebot.ai, which noted Speechly is more sophisticated than some rivals like Modulate’s ToxMode and Spectrum Labs.
Terms of the deal with Roblox were not disclosed. Reached for comment, Roblox declined to disclose any other details surrounding the acquisition.
Updated, 9/20/23 2:12 pm ET with Roblox’s decline to comment.