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SoundHound adds powerful voice control for hands-free music listening

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Create Spotify playlists with just your voice

SoundHound

The SoundHound mobile app, which can listen for and identify music it hears through your smartphone speakers, is getting a huge artificial intelligence upgrade. Starting today, the app will be controllable with your voice using SoundHound's new virtual assistant voice software, called Houndify. That means you'll be able to say, "Ok, Hound," and ask the app to play music from Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and a handful of other streaming services. You'll also be able to ask it to add songs to a Spotify playlist, play music videos through YouTube, and use the software to answer musical trivia questions.

It's interesting new territory for SoundHound, which has commonly been considered a Shazam competitor and not an AI company. It's not a huge surprise, however, if you've followed SoundHound of late. Last year, the company released a beta version of Hound, its standalone take on Siri, Google Now, and other AI software. The app, which released to the public in March, is a powerful, albeit limited, voice assistant that can understand complex queries and even follow-up questions. The result is an impressive music integration that leap frogs the capabilities of Siri when it comes to making requests and building playlists with your voice.

SoundHound is more powerful than Siri, but you need to open the app first

Because it's not baked directly into Android or iOS, SoundHound must be opened manually before you can use the "OK, Hound" voice command. It's also a bit of a stretch to assume the voice control feature will be useful enough to draw everyday consumers away from apps like Spotify and YouTube. Yet if do you take the initiative to use it, the Houndify technology is powerful enough to perform tasks other software simply cannot. (The company won't say what its secret is, but it has something to do with advanced natural language processing.)

For instance, setting SoundHound up on a table with a group of friends will let you all collaborate on a Spotify playlist by saying song requests aloud. The process may not be as seamless as speaking to Amazon's Alexa or using Google Now without unlocking your Android phone. But for a free app, SoundHound is smarter than most other alternatives.