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Amazon quietly acquires voice capability

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A company specialising in voice-recognition technology has apparently been snapped up by Amazon, and is now operating under an assumed name, for reasons which remain obscure.

The company which has been acquired is called Yap, and offers voice-to-text services. Recently it shut down its public offering and merged with a company called "Dion Acquisition Sub Inc", resulting in both companies moving to 410 Terry Avenue, North Seattle: an address which Amazon also calls home.

The transaction was picked up by CLT Blog, a local blog which took an interest because Yap is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. CLT Blog is hosting a copy of the merger papers (PDF), which clearly show that the combined corporation (which will be called Yap Inc) is based at Amazon's offices.

We've contacted Amazon to ask if it is letting out rooms these days, but the retailer had not responded as we go to print.

Yap has been hawking its fully-automated voice-to-text service for the last few years, hoping to sell it to mobile network operators as a value-added service. UK voicemail provider Hullomail remembers negotiating with them to transcribe messages (which are currently pushed to email as audio files) but Yap wanted more money than Hullomail was willing to pay.

Most of Yap's customers are network operators, but it turns out that transcribing voice mail is something of a niche application: "A voice mail message is more than just words," as Hullomail's CEO puts it. Yap did launch a consumer offering, as an iOS application, but then shut that down on 20 October.

That was just over a month after the merger details were filed. This happened on 8 September 2011, but didn't ring any bells until the chaps at CLT Blog noticed the matching address.

Amazon obviously has little interest in transcribing voicemail, and the kind of fully automated voice recognition espoused by Yap isn't really good enough for that anyway – when simple mistakes can change the meaning so significantly. But voice-driven product searches make a lot of sense, so that's probably where Yap's technology will end up, assuming the company isn't just renting Amazon's spare room of course. ®

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