Hume AI’s Empathic Voice Interface brings the charming AI from “Her” closer to reality

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Hume AI has raised $50 million in a Series B funding round and unveiled its new Empathic Voice Interface (EVI), a technology reminiscent of the charming AI voice of Samantha from the movie “Her.”

EQT Ventures led the $50 million Series B round for Hume AI, with participation from Union Square Ventures, Nat Friedman & Daniel Gross, Metaplanet, Northwell Holdings, Comcast Ventures and LG Technology Ventures.

Alongside the funding, Hume AI is launching EVI, its new flagship product that acts as an Alexa with emotional intelligence. EVI is powered by a new form of multimodal generative AI that Hume calls the Empathic Large Language Model (eLLM).

The company says EVI has been trained on data from millions of human interactions. It uses tone and volume to understand when users have finished speaking, reads their mood, and optimizes responses over time “for happiness and satisfaction.”

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For example, the system picks up on natural variations in pitch and tone that convey meaning beyond the words spoken. The AI voice also responds with such low latency that it gives the impression of a real conversation.

This brings to mind Samantha, the charming AI in the sci-fi drama “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. In the movie, lonely Theodore develops feelings for Samantha as she understands him more and more. Their friendship turns romantic. Hume’s EVI could at least make the friendship part of such a bond a reality.

“The main limitation of current AI systems is that they’re guided by superficial human ratings and instructions, which are error-prone and fail to tap into AI’s vast potential to come up with new ways to make people happy,” says Hume CEO Alan Cowen.

“By building AI that learns directly from proxies of human happiness, we’re effectively teaching it to reconstruct human preferences from first principles and then update that knowledge with every new person it talks to and every new application it’s embedded in.”

A demo version of EVI is already live, powered by Claude 3 Haiku for text generation. The company plans to make it publicly available to developers in April, with a waiting list now open.

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