Hands on with the Hound Beta by SoundHound

The Hound Beta search app has made a lot of waves over the last day or so, as the previously-unlisted YouTube video showing the app was made public. In the video, the app was taking in all sorts of questions and providing extremely fast results.

After applying for a beta invitation yesterday, I just received the invitation and decided to see how far I can push it. While on video it appeared to have great knowledge of things like geography, I was curious as to what sort of other data it was able to mine and what sort of commands it is able to understand. You can see how it went below:

The questions asked were as follows:

  1. Recommend the best 3 star hotel in Toronto, Canada that allows for pets and is walking distance away from a sushi restaurant
  2. What's the population of France divided by the population of the United States?
  3. If it is 10am in Sydney what time is it in San Francisco?
  4. What's the cheapest flight from LAX to New Delhi?
  5. Which year did Tupac die?
  6. How long would it take to walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas?
  7. What's the closest Thai restaurant to Sydney central station?

To start off with, the app was surprisingly fast. I'm located in Sydney, Australia and it's unlikely they have local servers, but the app was still extremely responsive. It did stutter at one point but otherwise it was fairly smooth, as you would have seen.

Some of the questions didn't get the answers I was hoping for, for example: asking how long it would take to walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas merely returned the distance, and asking which year Tupac died retrieved a list of search results rather than a mined answer. The question about the hotel in Toronto didn't give back the answer I was after at all, and neither did the question about the cheapest flight. On the whole, however, the speed is definitely there and it was able to understand my Western Sydney accent even though it's a beta intended for the United States only.

Some of the features not shown in the videos include being able to interface with your phone's contacts so that a user can say things like "Message Brad Sams: You're fired" and it would send that message. Same goes for dialing ("Call 555-5555") or setting alarms ("Wake me up at 7"). It also allows for searches on nutrition ("How much protein is in an egg"), a tip calculator, a currency converter, as well as things like a dictionary or thesaurus. Some of these have been in Cortana, Siri and Google Now for a while, but some are unique to Hound.

All in all it shows some really interesting potential for natural language processing, and since this is just a beta it's probable that things will only get better from here on out.

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