The next time you hop in your car and say, “Call Mom,” you may be using Voicebox voice-recognition technology. The Bellevue-based company, with offices worldwide, was founded in 2001, and its first product was the Cybermind smart speaker, similar to that of the Amazon Echo. Around the same period, a demand for a voice-recognition system in vehicles was emerging, said Michael Kennewick, the company’s senior vice president of product engineering. People wanted to make hands-free calls and change the songs on their iPods. After years of product design and testing, Voicebox shipped its first voice-recognition solution to Toyota in 2008.
Today, the company has 150 employees, about 100 of whom are at its Eastside location. Voicebox’s clients include Toyota; Chrysler; and several retailers, headset makers, and those in the Internet of Things sphere.
Part of what makes the company so unique is the machine-learning technology it implemented from the beginning. The software uses outside context to better understand what a person is asking. It makes the product seem more human and yields better results, Kennewick said.
A section of the recording area is an automotive simulation room, where people can test the voice- recognition product’s ease-of-use while “driving.” The full simulation setup, with a real driver’s seat, is a recent addition.
Office flow is important to Voicebox. Its location in downtown Bellevue occupies two floors, with expansive windows and a circular layout that feels seamless and easy to navigate.
Visitors are greeted at the front desk, then sign in and have their photo taken. An alert with their picture is then sent to the employee they’re meeting.
Little cat figurines, like these Hello Kitty dolls, are a humorous theme throughout the office.
Voicebox has two audio recording rooms and three small recording booths, so the company can capture a range of sounds for product performance. Over the years, nearly 100 million audio recordings have been recorded on- and off-site to improve the software.
Work stations are set up in pods, but desks can be easily moved for team collaboration.
The Voicebox audio studio is state of the art. Senior audio engineer Aaron Tungseth can access the two audio studios, three smaller audio booths, and an automotive simulation room from his control desk.
Sandwiched between workspaces is a ping-pong table with a few chairs. The employees work hard, but they also have areas to unwind and refresh.
Because Voicebox has five global offices, the kitchen mural is a fitting backdrop for employees lounging during their lunch break.
The main kitchen at Voicebox is bustling during the lunch hour and is fully stocked with snacks for a quick bite to eat. There are four other, smaller kitchens at Voicebox for employee convenience.
Little nooks with eclectic furniture are commonplace. When staff members need a break, they can pull up a chair and challenge a co-worker to a friendly game of chess.
- The company is approaching 100 million recorded audio files to fine tune its voice-recognition software, so it functions properly with a variety of dialects and sound environments.
- The office space was designed by JPC Architects and built by Foushée.
- Its first global office was in Munich, Germany.
- Every Friday is bagel Friday.
- Karaoke is a huge hit at Voicebox. Not only are the staff talented, but some team members sing in different languages.