Meditation app Headspace bets on voice and AI with Alpine.AI acquisition


Headspace, a meditation app with 31 million customers that’s valued at $320 million, is doubling down on voice and A.I. know-how to assist differentiate itself from the remainder of the wellness pack. The corporate at this time has introduced that it has acquired Alpine.AI (beforehand known as VoiceLabs), one of many early gamers within the digital assistant market, to carry extra voice interplay into its essential app.

“There are a number of meditation apps on the market proper now…however the capability to react to the place you’re in your journey with particular recommendation by means of voice purposes will probably be [far ahead] of the place our rivals are,” says Headspace’s new CTO Paddy Hannon, who will lead the Alpine staff of 4 who’re becoming a member of Headspace’s places of work in San Francisco.

Phrases of the deal weren’t disclosed, however the acquisition contains each the staff and the know-how, Headspace stated. The staff becoming a member of will embody Alpine.AI co-founder and CTO Alexandre Linares and three engineers. Alpine.AI CEO Adam Marchick will retain an advisory position going ahead.

VoiceLabs had experimented throughout numerous voice-based merchandise over time. They included a voice promoting product that Amazon squashed; an analytics service for voice app builders; and most not too long ago, an answer that would construct voice procuring apps by importing retailers’ catalogs and utilizing A.I. to reply buyer questions on these merchandise.

The latter, generally known as Alpine.AI, is what Headspace discovered most attention-grabbing.

Alpine.AI was engaged on options for retailers, which might permit clients to speak to their voice assistants naturally. For instance, asking for a mascara, the voice assistant would reply with issues like, “What coloration?” and “Would you like it to be waterproof?”

Headspace is just not about to begin promoting make-up, but it surely does see potential in making use of Alpine.AI’s machine studying applied sciences to its personal area.

Right now, Headspace’s major interface is audio. Customers are guided by means of meditation periods by the soothing, calm and distinctive voice of Andi Puddicombe, the co-founder who’s a former Tibetan monk.

Constructing on that basis, the plan will probably be to implement Alpine.AI’s know-how to offer individuals an interactive voice-based strategy to uncover the completely different meditation periods accessible on Headspace, and to make use of these interactions to make higher ideas to particular person customers.

A shopper would possibly inform Headspace they’re “wired,” and the app would make an applicable advice primarily based on the shopper’s historical past within the app.

The addition of Alpine’s know-how could possibly be a aggressive benefit for Headspace, within the crowded and rising subject of self-care apps. Headspace is simply forward of chief rival when it comes to valuation, with the latter at round $277 million, based on knowledge from PitchBook.

Past the preliminary benefit of enhancing Headspace’s voice apps, Hannon says Alpine’s know-how might be put to make use of in different methods, as nicely, together with inside its iOS and Android apps the place customers’ actions — not a voice command — could possibly be the set off that kicks off a customized suggestion.

Hannon says Alpine.AI was additionally interesting due to the way it was constructed.

“They constructed every little thing on Amazon. They use Docker. This was another excuse it was a really enticing acquisition,” Hannon explains. “They constructed software program utilizing the identical patterns that we construct our software program with internally. They’re leveraging a lot of the identical database applied sciences that we’re utilizing. They use REST companies like we do…so from an infrastructure perspective, it was very easy.

“I feel the place it’s going to be attention-grabbing is attaching our audio content material to their text-based system. However if you take a look at what Amazon’s offering with issues like Lex proper now, there’s numerous text-to-speech or speech-to-text techniques, that I feel will allow us to try this implementation,” he added.

The deal can also be about betting on the way forward for voice computing. The variety of voice-enabled digital assistant units has grown to over 1 billion worldwide over the previous two-and-a-half years. Right now, 20 % of U.S. households have a devoted good speaker, and that quantity is anticipated to develop.

As one of many main apps within the worthwhile self-care app market, Headspace at this time reaches 31 million customers, together with over 1 million paying subscribers, throughout 190 international locations. It additionally runs a B2B enterprise centered on bringing its meditation workout routines to bigger organizations and their staff, the place it has greater than 250 companies on board.

Alpine.AI was a seed-stage firm on the time of the acquisition, having raised “a number of million” from traders together with The Chernin Group, Javelin Enterprise Companions and Betaworks. However whereas voice-enabled good audio system have confirmed to have some reputation, we’ve but to see many startups working in voice-based interfaces scale up and tackle the likes of Nuance or different massive platform gamers like Apple, Google and Amazon. This may need been a part of the rationale why Alpine.AI was a lovely acquisition goal (and was additionally open to the exit).

The startup is winding down the small handful of outlets, together with Petco, who have been utilizing the product and is providing every a one-on-one transition plan.

“We’re thrilled to be dedicating our efforts to teaching and guiding customers to construct wholesome routines,” stated Alpine.AI CEO Adam Marchick, concerning the acquisition. “Alpine’s machine studying capabilities speed up Headspace’s efforts to carry new conversational experiences to market.”

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