The month before Apple revealed its “intelligent assistant,” Siri, Amazon was quietly buying out a company whose software performs voice-to-text actions like transcribing voicemails, whatever those are. In fact, its only user-facing product did just that, and its users received notice last month that the service would soon be discontinued.
CLT Blog, a local news source in Yap’s hometown, Charlotte, noted the change and discovered an SEC filing that, while it didn’t spell much out explicitly, did show that the merger documents were on file here in Seattle, in South Lake Union, in a building owned by Amazon.
The company was apparently doing well and the Yap Voicemail app was most likely the tip of the iceberg, an application of more important IP under development since 2006. They received a $6.5 million Series A round in 2008, led by SunBridge Partners there in Charlotte, but no reports exist at the moment that can accurately place the value of the company.
With a few million in R&D funds, they certainly were doing more than squashing bugs in their transcription app. Improving the underlying voice-recognition engine and perhaps expanding its natural language capabilities would be a better use of the funds. But why would Amazon pick them up now?
Because now Amazon is in the home. Where previously you interacted with Amazon through a PC interface, browser or otherwise, or at most an on-Kindle store, now you have the Fire, which sports a rich interface and media-consumption focus. What would be more natural than talking to your tablet? How about virtual shopping assistant?
Unfortunately, the Fire doesn’t actually have a microphone. Every phone running the Kindle app does, however, and it’s possible we’ll see a precursor to the full voice functionality in that ecosystem. We’ll follow up with the financial details as soon as they’re available. You can read the SEC filing here (PDF).