Introducing the CoBlog: Cobalt Blog

On any given day, my colleagues and I at Cobalt Speech and Language are tackling a variety of diverse problems in the world of speech processing, machine learning, and natural language processing. In order to invite others to have a look into our virtual workshop, we’re starting this blog. About once a week, you’ll find a short feature here that will help acquaint you with the people and projects that put Cobalt Speech at the forefront of progress in the world of speech technology.

To kick off this “CoBlog”, I thought it appropriate to share a little bit about why we started Cobalt in the first place.

Five years ago, I sat in my office at Amazon, getting ready for the upcoming Echo & Alexa launch.  I thought back on the incredible three year adventure that had prepared us for that moment. It had been an amazing experience growing the speech & NLU team at Amazon, defining and discovering what Alexa could do, working with the hardware, applications, data, and other teams at Amazon.  One thing that stood out to me was how much effort had gone into developing this novel product. I guessed that Amazon had invested hundreds of millions of dollars into preparing for a successful launch of Alexa and the Echo products.

The idea for Alexa was simple – a voice-based home assistant that could do simple things like play music and tell you the time or weather, but only a giant like Amazon could have pulled it off.  I wondered how many other entrepreneurs had similarly innovative ideas, but lacked the technical resources to execute their vision. In particular, having built speech & language research teams at Nuance, Yap, and now Amazon, I knew how hard it was to recruit top speech & language scientists and engineers and convince them to join a new company. 

That’s when the idea for Cobalt came to me.  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and a few others have their own world-class speech & language teams.  Cobalt would be the speech team for everyone else. I would hire world-class speech & language scientists and engineers, we would develop our own, independent core software and tools, and we would use those tools to help build the dreams of everyone who needed that technology.  We would be the speech & language development partner for everyone who needed one.

Over the past 5 years, we have worked with about 100 different companies, developing all manner of applications with our technology, and it has been an incredible adventure.  One of the interesting aspects is that while we have focused on speech & language technology, our customers focus on their respective specialties. Our partnerships have taught us things about those diverse domains, and we have enjoyed learning about speech applications that were new and different.  We have learned about language pedagogy as we have developed tools to help language learners improve their pronunciation. We have learned about agriculture as we developed tools to help farmers and agronomists. We learned about the worlds of finance, education, entertainment, call centers, assistive technologies, child development, government, and so many other areas.  It has been very rewarding.

Over the coming months and years, we will share more in this blog about some of the projects we have worked on, some details about Cobalt’s technological suite, and introduce you to our team and how we work together. 

We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know us.