Doing Well While Doing Good – Ava’s AI Does Closed Captioning for Zoom Calls

December 15, 2020

‘Yeah, we’ve all heard about Zoom fatigue, that’s nothing new.’  Ok, but you probably don’t know about this company that is using the superpowers of AI for good.

Ava is building software that helps deaf and hard-of-hearing by providing on-demand captions for in-person and virtual conversations.  The simple but oh so necessary solution they provide is essentially closed captioning for Zoom calls.  You know, when you are at a hotel and see the white letters in black blocks on the TV transcribing what people say, well, Ava does that for Zoom calls and other online sources, in real-time.

New products and $4.5m in funding.  The company recently announced two new products designed to support the Deaf and hard of hearing community, and $4.5M in a new funding round co-led by Initialized Capital and Khosla Ventures.  With this round, the total funding to Ava is $6.5M.

Ava Closed Captions is the first new product which provides closed captions for all online meetings and videos on Mac, Windows, and Web including Zoom.  The closed captions also work with YouTube videos without subtitles, live web broadcasts and even audio-only content like podcasts and is offered in more than 15 languages. 

Ava Scribe is the second new product which provides Ava users instant access to 99% accurate captions using an innovative combination of AI-based captions with live transcription professionals.  This is becoming a common theme in AI companies—using AI with live human interaction often provides results that are better than AI alone. 

Founder from a deaf family who understands the problem deaf people face. 
The company was founded Thibault Duchemin, the only hearing person in a deaf family, so he is uniquely positioned to understand how to bridge the divide between the Deaf and the hearing communities.

“It’s actually really complicated,” he said. “Today if you have a meeting with four people, Ava is the only technology where you can have accurate labeling of who said what, and that’s extremely valuable when you think about enterprise.”

And commenting on the AI/human combination in Ava Scribe, Duchemin notes that often speech-to-text AI is enough to follow a conversation but often, the need is more than that.  “They need solutions for meetings and classes and in-person, and they aren’t ready to go full AI. They need someone to clean up the transcript, so we provide that service,” he said.

It seems to be working.  Duchemin plans to double the size of the team with the funding.  And, over 100 accessibility leads at Fortune 500 companies like USPS, Nike, and FedEx as well as universities like Cornell and George Washington, are using Ava’s software.

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