Qualcomm's SoundHound partnership keeps your voice searches off the cloud

Soundhound Qualcomm Logos
Soundhound Qualcomm Logos (Image credit: Soundhound/Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • Qualcomm and SoundHound have come to a multi-year agreement to provide on-device speech recognition with SoundHound technology.
  • SoundHound voice recognition is able to understand complex speech patterns, multiple voices, and follow-up commands.
  • This speech recognition tech would reside on the Snapdragon chipset and is processed entirely locally, keeping data from being sent to the cloud.
  • No specific chipsets have been announced with the functionality at this time.

Qualcomm and SoundHound have announced a new multi-year deal to bring SoundHound's voice recognition technology to Qualcomm chipsets on the best Android phones in the future. This deal will provide a turnkey solution for device manufacturers and app developers to implement voice search and other voice commands directly into apps and devices.

If you've been in the smartphone game long enough, you probably remember the name SoundHound. With over 100 million installs on the Google Play Store alone, SoundHound became one of the leading song identification apps in the early days of Android and iOS. It was almost always a great experience that just felt magic.

With this new deal, SoundHound's "advanced voice AI technology, consisting of its automatic speech recognition, natural language understanding, and text-to-speech conversion software" will now be embedded on select Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets in the future.

Qualcomm says it chose the SoundHound platform because of its ability to recognize voices from across the room and even while the device in question is already playing music or other sounds. Additionally, SoundHound's natural language understanding engine is said to understand complex speech with real-time processing, always-on functionality via Snapdragon always-on tech, and even the ability to process multiple queries at once, as well as follow-on requests.

Qualcomm cites SoundHound's ability to process everything on-device, making it an edge computing assistant instead of one that relies entirely on the cloud.

This new SoundHound assistant would process everything on-device; a move that's at odds with what assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa which process nearly everything in the cloud.

Processing on-device — defined as edge computing — is a great way to process requests faster and keep data more private. Google has made steps in the past to process more Google Assistant data on-device, but most phones — and most Google search queries done via voice — are still sent to the cloud, processed there, and then sent back to your device.

The announcement comes as SoundHound is expected to become a public company after its merger with Archimedes Tech SPAC Partners Co.

The announcement doesn't include information on which specific Snapdragon chipsets will implement the new technology. It's likely that Qualcomm has pursued SoundHound so as to offer compelling alternatives to Google Assistant for devices that don't want to or need to implement Google Play Services.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu