will.i.am's tech tat biz is going enterprise, snags $117m from Salesforce

Deutsche Telekom's got a feeling about i.am+ voice assistant Omega

Would you buy an AI chatbot from this man? Tinseltown/Shutterstock

Would-be entrepreneur and tech magpie will.i.am's startup, i.am+, has bagged $117m venture funding from Salesforce.

The former Black Eyed Peas frontman's firm makes a whole load of consumer tech – from phone cases and earphones to wearables – that nobody particularly uses or rates.

So the next obvious step is surely to enter the equally competitive market of voice assistants – especially given the success he's had with voice control on the Dial watch.

Youtube Video

The move pits i.am+'s assistant, Omega, against Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Assistant. But with 300 people employed by the firm, we're sure i.am+ has the capacity to take them on.

And no longer content with scrapping for consumer dollars – where will's celebrity status must surely be a boon – the firm has also set its sights on enterprise customers.

The blurb for Omega proclaims: "Don't expect your customers to speak robot. Teach your enterprise application to speak human." Which might give pause to anyone who has listened to will.i.am offering up his unique brand of wisdom.

But El Reg, we hear you ask, where is the love? Salesforce wouldn't lead a multimillion-dollar investment round in a firm as a way of getting a megastar up on stage at this week's corporate gabfest, Dreamforce.

Indeed, according to Reuters, there is one enterprise client willing to go on record: telco giant and T-Mobile US parent company Deutsche Telekom.

The biz is using Omega to power an AI support chatbot and will add a voice phone system soon, the newswire reported.

According to i.am+, Omega's core components include advanced natural language understanding capabilities, contextual deep learning and automatic speech recognition.

It promised the usual benefits of voice-assistive technology, like time savings, cost reduction, new insights and revenue streams, as well as offering pluggable modules to "enhance" the experience with "a personality [and] opinions".

And will.i.am told Reuters that the firm wasn't stopping at customer support, and that it had several more enterprise voice AI products up its sleeve.

"One of those things is handling hundreds of thousands of customers' inquiries about their data plans simultaneously," he is quoted as saying. "If it can do that, your imagination's the limit." ?


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