Perplexity’s latest partnership set to power SoundHound’s voice assistant

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As OpenAI gears up to launch a search-focused product to take on Google and Bing, Perplexity, the company already making waves with an AI-first knowledge engine, is going all in on pushing the reach of its product through industry partnerships. A few weeks ago, the Aravind Srinivas-led startup shared plans for global expansion with major telcos. And now, as the next step, it is teaming up with SoundHound, a leader in voice AI.

Under the engagement, announced yesterday, Perplexity’s online large language model (LLM)-driven capabilities will power SoundHound’s Chat AI voice assistant, making it more capable than ever. The companies expect the move to translate into a better experience for SoundHound’s customers while giving Perplexity access to a broader market.

“Through this integration… we’re one step closer to our goal of making Perplexity available to everyone across every device they use. With the growing popularity of voice AI, we’re allowing users to more easily access the information they need, when they need it,” Dmitry Shevelenko, chief business officer at Perplexity, said in a statement.

What to expect from Perplexity and SoundHound?

Founded more than a decade ago, SoundHound serves a range of industries with its speech recognition and voice AI solutions. For consumers, the company has developed Chat AI, a Siri-like voice assistant that users can interact with and get easy answers. It integrates with specific knowledge domains – pulling real-time data on topics such as weather, sports, stocks, flight status and restaurants – and combines that information with static large language models to produce comprehensive responses.

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Now, as the next step in this work, the company is roping in Perplexity’s online LLMs into Chat AI. These models inherently surf the web to leverage the most helpful and up-to-date information when forming a response. This will enable Chat AI to answer all sorts of time-sensitive queries, going beyond what was possible by connecting real-time data with static LLMs. 

SoundHound says Perplexity’s online LLMs will significantly expand the type and complexity of the questions Chat AI can handle. For instance, a user could ask a question like: “How does the price of gas this week compare to last week?” and the response should include accurate, live information on gas prices and a comprehensive generative AI-style comparison with prices from last week. This response could then be followed up with: “Navigate to the nearest gas station,” prompting SoundHound to seamlessly incorporate data from the appropriate sources to provide directions on the device in use.

That said, it is important to note that SoundHound has not clarified which online LLMs from Perplexity it aims to use. Currently, the startup has two sizes on offer: pplx-7b-online and pplx-70b-online.

Smarter voice assistants on the way

With Perplexity’s models, SoundHound Chat AI is on track to become one of the strongest generative AI-powered voice assistants out there, taking on the likes of Google Assistant and Alexa. The offering was the first in the world to launch with generative AI capabilities as well as the first to go into production for automobiles. It is already deployed in more than 12 countries in 18 languages with Stellantis.

“By integrating Perplexity search capabilities into SoundHound Chat AI we’re raising the bar for voice assistants and the kinds of queries they can handle effortlessly. Where this technology is already deployed in vehicles, we’re seeing usage habits shift substantially – increasing by multiples. We’re confident that this enhancement will further delight users as more and more people choose to talk rather than type,” Mike Zagorsek, SoundHound AI COO, said in a statement.

Notably, both Google and Amazon have made announcements to enhance their voice assistants, Google Assistant and Alexa, with generative AI models. However, the experiences are yet to roll out globally. Apple is also expected to bring an improved gen AI-driven avatar or Siri. In the long run, with this LLM-driven shift, one can easily expect voice assistants, which have traditionally been rigid and flow-driven, to engage in more organic, human-like conversations while providing more helpful and accurate responses.

For Perplexity, the partnership with SoundHound marks the addition of another strong distribution channel expanding the reach of its LLM-driven search capabilities. Before this, the company independently partnered with SoftBank, Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, ElevenLabs, Copy AI, Arc and Nothing.

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