ELSA raises $three.2M for its A.I.-powered English pronunciation assistant
ELSA, an app whose title stands for “English Language Speech Assistant” (and never the favored Disney character!), has raised $three.2 million for its A.I.-assisted language studying platform that teaches folks the best way to communicate English. Not like different programs that focus primarily on instructing grammar and vocabulary, ELSA makes use of synthetic intelligence and speech recognition know-how to assist language learners with their pronunciation.
The $three.2 million pre-A spherical of funding was led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, a agency that invests in post-seed stage startups in Southeast Asia. Monk’s Hill founder and associate, Peng T. Ong, is becoming a member of ELSA’s board.
The San Francisco-based startup was initially based in 2015 by Stanford grad Vu Van, ELSA CEO, and Dr. Xavier Anguera, whose background is in speech recognition and A.I. applied sciences. It debuted at SXSW in March 2016, the place it later won the SXSWedu launch competitors.
In line with Van, who was born and raised in Vietnam, the concept for ELSA was prompted by her private expertise in attempting to study English.
“I moved to the States for my MBA and Master’s in Education at Stanford,” she says. “My first year at Stanford was very challenging because of my ability to speak English. A lot of the time, people misunderstood me,” Van continues.
Though ELSA’s founder was capable of write and browse English pretty properly, she wished to discover a good resolution for bettering her accent – and she or he got here up quick.
“I realized that people didn’t really have a lot of solutions…when it comes to speaking, they could either go to a speech therapist that costs them $150 an hour, who could listen to them and fix their pronunciation, or they could go to YouTube or watch Netflix, which is a one-way learning solution,” Van says.
She determined to develop ELSA because of her personal struggles, bringing in co-founder Dr. Anguera to assist create ELSA’s proprietary speech recognition know-how.
To make use of ELSA, language learners obtain the app for iOS or Android, then take ELSA’s five-minute evaluation take a look at which identifies the person’s pronunciation proficiency and identifies the place they nonetheless have challenges. This info is then used to construct out a personalised curriculum, tailor-made to the person’s present talents.
In ELSA, there are round 600 classes and three,000+ phrases throughout a wide range of subjects, like introductions, speaking about household or relationships, jobs and hiring, touring, and extra. The app can be up to date frequently with seasonal and well timed subjects, like classes that includes the vacations, and even the brand new “Star Wars” film, so learners can higher take part in on a regular basis communication.
The teachings themselves are bite-sized, at 2 minutes lengthy. They’ve 5 workouts that get progressively more durable, together with pronunciations of phrases, phrases and sentences.
ELSA works by listening to learners’ voices, then matching up what they mentioned with the right American English pronunciation. The phrases on the display are highlighted in crimson, yellow and inexperienced to point out how properly every the coed did. The app can even assist by making options as to how the speaker can enhance on a given sound – for instance, by telling them the best way to form their mouth or transfer their tongue.
Behind the scenes, ELSA is powered by A.I. know-how, that listens to customers’ speech – one thing the crew constructed from scratch.
“The speech recognition technology out there is slightly different [from ELSA]. They try to guess what you’re saying, whether you’re saying it right or wrong. It’s obviously very forgiving to mistakes. What we want to do is the exact opposite,” says Van.
Since its launch two years in the past, ELSA has been adopted by a couple of million customers in over 100 international locations, with round half its person base in Southeast Asia, and the remaining unfold out elsewhere on the earth, together with in Latin America and Japanese Europe. Customers are right now working towards a couple of million workouts per week.
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With the extra funding, ELSA is planning to deal with the requests from academics who wish to use the service of their lecture rooms by growing a software that can allow them to enter phrases and phrases from personal curriculum. It’s additionally going to start the work so as to add new languages to the platform, and construct out its voice recognition API.
ELSA right now generates income by way of subscriptions, priced at $three.99/month or $29.99/yr. A quarterly possibility is obtainable as properly, although costs could range by area. Whereas the product for academics will probably be reasonably priced, it gained’t be free – doubtlessly providing one other income stream.
The corporate can even use the funds to rent further A.I. expertise, says Vu.
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