Talk Stars: Israeli AI Startup Brings Fluency to Natural Language Understanding

Onvego, an NVIDIA Inception member, lets enterprises build their own conversational interfaces in 10 different languages.
by Tony Kontzer

Whether talking with banks, cell phone providers or insurance companies, customers often encounter AI-powered voice interfaces to direct their calls to the right department.

But these interfaces typically are limited to understanding certain keywords. Onvego, an Israel-based startup, is working to make these systems understand what you say, no matter how you say it.

Before starting Onvego, the company’s founders created a mobile speech apps platform to assist blind people. Now they’re creating pre-built AI models for such use cases as accepting or requesting payments, scheduling appointments or booking reservations.

Onvego is a member of NVIDIA Inception, a program that accelerates AI and data science startups with go-to-market support, expertise and technology.

The company’s AI enables enterprises to easily build their own conversational interfaces in 10 different languages, with more on the way. Its technology already powers Israel’s toll road payment systems, enabling drivers to pay with their voice.

“Say the customer said, ‘I want to pay my bill.’ The system has to understand what that means,” said Alon Buchnik, CTO and co-founder of Onvego. “Once it does, it sends that information back to the speech machine, where logic is applied.”

The system then walks the driver through the payment process. Onvego’s AI also powers two emergency road services providers in Israel, providing AI-powered answers to drivers in need.

“The speech machine understands exactly what the problem is,” said Buchnik. “It understands if it needs to send a tow truck or just a technician.”

In Search of Ubiquity

Road-related applications are just the tip of the iceberg for Onvego. The company envisions its technology being inside everything from coffee machines to elevators. Along those lines, it’s forged partnerships with GE, GM, Skoda, Amazon and numerous other companies.

For instance, Onvego’s AI is being incorporated into a line of elevators, enabling the manufacturer to provide a conversational voice interface for users.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the globe, Buchnik believes the company’s no-touch technology, such as activating elevators by voice only, can deliver an added benefit by reducing transmission of the virus.

But Onvego’s most-ambitious undertaking may be its contact call center technology. The company has developed an application, powered by NVIDIA GPUs, that’s designed to do the work of an entire call center operation.

It runs as a cloud-based service as well as enterprise on-premises solution that would provide real-time natural language call center support for IoT devices at the network’s edge, even where there’s no internet connectivity.

GPUs at the Core

Buchnik said that while it would be possible for the Onvego call center application to answer 50 simultaneous calls without GPUs, “it would require a huge CPU” to do so. “For the GPU, it’s nothing,” he said.

Onvego also uses a CUDA decoder so developers can access decoding capabilities on the GPU.

Training of the company’s automatic speech recognition models occurs on NVIDIA GPU-powered instances from AWS or Azure, which Onvego acquired through NVIDIA Inception.

Aside from its efforts to expand the use of its technology, Onvego is focused on the standalone container for locations at the edge or completely independent from the network. They plan to run it on an NVIDIA Jetson Nano.

The idea of providing intelligent natural language interfaces to people wherever they’re needed is providing Buchnik and his team with all the motivation they need.

“This is our vision,” he said. “This is where we want to be.”

Buchnik credits the NVIDIA Inception program for providing the company access to the best AI experts, top technical resources and support, and access to a large marketing program with strong positioning in different market verticals.

By using the NVIDIA resources and platforms, Onvego is hoping to promote its intelligent voice solutions to markets and industries that it has not yet reached.