- StatMuse, a sports statistics database that can respond to natural language queries, released an iOS app that lets football fans ask questions and get answers from NFL stars, TechCrunch reported. The technology company recorded the voices of dozens of players, such as retired quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Jerry Rice.
- Seven players are available to answer questions so far, and StatMuse wants to add one more player per week this year, per TechCrunch. StatMuse's algorithm strings together voice answers from snippets of word combinations and phrases the players pre-recorded. The players can't answer questions about any topic, but will respond to ones about them or their team. For broader topics, StatMuse recorded 10 hours of audio from ESPN's Scott Van Pelt.
- StatMuse is the second startup accepted into the NFL Players Association's tech incubator. The One Team Collective helps smaller startups get access to player licensing rights in exchange for ownership stakes. A skill for Amazon Alexa is also due for release, per TechCrunch.
Like any other pre-recorded voice feature that pieces together snippets of words and phrases, StatMuse's app might sound a bit clunky to users at first, but those hiccups will likely smooth out as the company focuses on answering the most common questions with higher-quality recordings and the industry improves natural language technology.
The app is free to use now, but TechCrunch reported that the company sees a trend toward small subscription fees. In addition to being accepted into the NFL Players Association's incubator, StatMuse entered Disney's accelerator in 2015 and raised $10 million in venture capital early last year.
Home digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, are opening up new audio possibilities for brands. At the same time, consumers are growing increasingly comfortable with performing voice commands. Gartner forecast that 30% of web browsing sessions will happen without a screen by 2020, with "'voice-first' interactions" potentially taking over much of the legwork, and eMarketer estimates the number of Americans using a voice assistant at least monthly will more than double in 2017 to 35.6 million. This market is growing more robust as suites of third-party integrations like StatMuse experiment with how to capitalize on the latest tech trend and find engagement strategies that bring value to consumers and align with their brand.
StatMuse and the NFL aren't the first to enlist celebrities in order to spur consumer interest in the voice-assistant arena. GPS platform Waze has let users change the sound of their app's voice command, including Keith Morrison, Mr. T and Morgan Freeman for a limited time. And as of May, the app began letting users record their own voices for navigation commands.