Addressing The Biggest Challenge of Going Handsfree – Interview with Todd Mozer, CEO, Sensory Inc.

Sensory, Inc. is a company specializing in consumer speech and vision technologies. Founded in 1994, the company offers software-based biometric security solutions that use voice and facial recognition to authenticate users. Sensory will be at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, January 6 through 9 in Las Vegas. Sensory will be showcasing its technology in booth MP25547.

In advance of CES 2015 and the launch of the company’s new app, AppLock, FindBiometrics president Peter O’Neill had a chance to interview Sensory’s CEO, Todd Mozer. The conversation details the company’s long history, the biggest challenge in developing handsfree mobile tech and the major innovations Sensory has brought to the biometrics and mobile marketplace.

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Peter O’Neill, FindBiometrics (FB): Can you please provide our readers with a brief background of your company, Sensory?

Todd Mozer, Sensory: Sensory has been around for more than twenty years. We got started in speech recognition and on the biometric side of things doing speaker verification. We have been targeting the consumer electronics market space and over the last five years we have been very successful in the mobile market in particular. Recently we have expanded our offerings to include vision technologies including face authentication. We call our authentication offering TrulySecure, and we are putting a lot of focus on both speaker verification and face ID. TrulySecure is the biometric fusion of face and voice. Today we have world class solutions in both face and voice authentication.  We are combining them together to make a mobile authentication for high accuracy with extreme convenience. We are really focused on the convenience side of things.

FB: Before we get into TrulySecure, you have a history as being an industry leader in the voice area with a lot of innovation, can you tell our readers a little bit about some of those innovative concepts?

Sensory: We have done both speech chips of our own as well as embedded software that we licensed. Probably one of the most innovative things that we have done is what we call TrulyHandsfree.

Up until a few years ago whenever people used speech recognition they had to hit buttons to use it and that seemed really crazy to us. We wanted a solution that you could just start talking to and have it work but there were extreme challenges associated with leaving speech recognizers always on. One is that they might respond to the wrong things when you don’t want them to respond and another is that when you say the right thing you have to have it respond; you can’t have it reject you and give you a false reject. And to do all that with very, very low power consumption (because it must be always on and listening) was considered impossible.

Sensory proved a lot of naysayers wrong and came out with an algorithm that was able to do high accuracy keyword spotting in any kind of noise level and with ultra low power consumption; this made it so that you didn’t have to touch the device to control by voice.

FB: You were honored at the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona for this product weren’t you?

Sensory: Yes. TrulyHandsfree has won numerous awards. We were awarded at the Mobile World Congress and I think Speech Tech magazine recently gave us a couple of awards as well.

It has been very, very well received. So much so that really the entire world has started realizing that we need this technology to make products really work. Motorola’s implementation that they called Touchless Control has been one of the top rated mobile apps on the Android store. It’s very flattering to have companies like Google, QUALCOMM and Apple, basically the biggest companies in the world trying to do what Sensory proved can be done…and we are staying ahead of these giants by further lowering power consumption, adding improvements in accuracy, and layering other features like speaker verification.

FB: I am familiar with this product, but the power consumption solution really is truly remarkable. Was  that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome?

Sensory: Yes absolutely. Our goal when we designed it was to get down to the sub 2mA range when it was on and running. We knew that we could go to market with something like 10mA but it wouldn’t become really mainstream until we could get it down to about 1mA. Our first implementation was about 5mA and we’ll have things hit the market in 2015 that are hitting the 1mA or lower with new features like our low power speech detection.

FB: Can you tell us more about your next launch, TrulySecure, your new authentication solution that  combines face and voice biometrics.?

Sensory: What I didn’t say about Sensory earlier, which I’ll add in now, is that a lot of our expertise is really doing small footprint solutions and porting to embedded platforms. I think this could play an increasingly important role as we move into more vision technologies. The face authentication we are doing for example is in a relatively constrained platform like Android, and we have extremely fast response with high accuracy. TrulySecure is a biometric solution that doesn’t have to sacrifice accuracy to be fast, because it has a small footprint. We have made it accurate and very unobtrusive.

FB: That is what the market is looking for isn’t it?

Sensory: We hope so. We certainly did our research on what the market wanted and we quickly concluded that face and voice had certain advantages over fingerprint and some of the other biometrics in the ease of use and low implementation cost areas and that the real challenge was to make it so that they were accurate enough. By combining the best voice verification and the best face authentication together we are achieving false accept rates below .005 percent with over 95 percent detection – and that’s using real world data.

FB: What vertical markets will you be focusing on for TrulySecure?

Sensory: Good question. Our roots are in the consumer electronic space including mobile phones, cars and home electronics so certainly we are taking it to our existing customer base which includes all these types of companies. However, we are also see opportunities in new market segments that we haven’t traditionally been selling to. For example, we believe that just as a way to lock applications there is a nice fit for app developers and enterprise applications. Because TrulySecure is all developed by Sensory in house, it can be both cost effective but also run cross platform on Android or iOS or any platform you want us to move it to.

FB: If I’m not mistaken everything is performed on device, is that correct?

Sensory: That is correct. No cloud is required and we have intentionally architected to run on device.  Nevertheless, we have started to look at other techniques where we could use some of the advantage of the cloud to enable more security and offer our customers some flexibility about where things are stored and to really take advantages of both client and cloud types of authentication.

FB: You are also announcing a new app in January. Can you tell us about this?

Sensory: TrulySecure is the brand name of our technology and what we are going to be announcing in January is a new application that users can download onto their Android devices and enable them to biometrically lock their applications. AppLock is an application locker and the neat thing about this is that you can have the ease and unobtrusiveness by using face only where literally you can just open up an application and you almost don’t even know that it did a biometric authentication because the camera glances so quickly and opens up. But if you want the highest security then we can combine both the face and voice together and then you open it up with a text dependent password, and that’s where it gets virtually unbreakable.

FB: Well Todd I was at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas last month and biometrics are starting to play a significant role in the whole financial payment industry. Your solution certainly seems ideal for the financial area as well. So congratulations on being innovative once again and look forward to seeing how your launch unfolds in 2015.

Sensory: Thanks very much Peter.