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Ava Announces Two Captioning Innovations Designed for 24/7 Accessibility for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, and $4.5M in New Funding

COVID has compounded the isolation endured by the deaf and hard of hearing, requiring new tools to participate in daily life 

December 10, 2020 – San Francisco, CAAva, the leading live captioning solution for accessibility, today announced two new products designed to support the Deaf and hard of hearing community, especially as they face unique challenges during COVID. The company also announced $4.5M in a new funding round co-led by Initialized Capital and Khosla Ventures, bringing the total funding to $6.5M. The first product,Ava Closed Captions, provides closed captions for all online meetings and videos on Mac, Windows, and Web, while the second product, Ava Scribe provides Ava users instant access to 99% accurate captions using an innovative mix of real-time AI-based captions and live transcription professionals for any organization. 

The deaf and hard of hearing often struggle to participate in conversations, especially in group settings with hearing people as it can be nearly impossible to lip read multiple people at once. COVID has exasperated this challenge. With masks everywhere, lip-reading has become impossible in everyday interactions. Further, now that much of our professional, educational, and personal communications have become virtual, deaf and hard of hearing professionals and students have been stuck on countless conference calls trying to decipher what’s happening, or worse, on conference calls where some participants speak with the video off. 

Automatic captions are rated in video and conference call platforms, and when they are, aren’t checked by professionals, which creates confusion if key words are misspoken in a meeting or a lecture for example. As a result, the deaf and hard of hearing feel left out time after time from a growing number of critical life activities, from work to education. The swelling pain felt in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community during the pandemic has been reflected in demand for Ava’s services – the company has seen a 5x increase in demand from accessibility professionals since the beginning of COVID. 

Ava provides true accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing by showing them who says what, and enabling them to answer in real-time. The patented technology identifies different speakers in its captions, listens to multiple people simultaneously, and instantly displays written captions to users. The speech algorithms are able to translate spoken sentences into words in less than one second. 

With the launch of Ava Closed Captions, the company’s new web and desktop product, users can now see closed captions layered on top of any online meeting or video they’re playing, even full-screen, which is a much more comfortable experience. The product also integrates seamlessly with popular platforms such as Zoom, in the case of a webinar for example, to broadcast captions to participants. Ava Captions brings not only accessibility but autonomy to every deaf and hard-of-hearing person, giving them the ability to participate in everyday conversations, even online.

Ava’s second product unveiled today, Ava Scribe, is a real-time, professional-grade captioning service that combines machine and human intelligence, available on all platforms. As Ava’s AI writes a caption, a human edits the text, adding no more than a three-second delay, which is twice as fast as traditional solutions. 

Ava CEO Thibault Duchemin grew up as the only hearing person in his deaf family, while co-founder and CTO Skinner Cheng is deaf. The pair have experienced firsthand the isolation felt by the deaf and hard of hearing and how it has been magnified during the pandemic. 

“Since I was five, I spent my life making sure my parents and sister had access to essential information like everyone else does. But last month, when I showed them Ava Captions, I realized we had made a huge leap forward. I saw my parents’ eyes light up when they realized they could, with just one click, caption truly anything on their computer. Because they didn’t need to stress over each class, training, webinar or video, wondering if it was going to be accessible, they felt truly empowered,” said Duchemin. “A huge paradigm shift happened, towards full autonomy. 450 million deaf and hard of hearing people simply cannot wait anymore for society to catch up with their accessibility needs.” 

Over 100 accessibility leads at Fortune 500 companies like USPS, Nike, and FedEx or universities like Cornell or George Washington, are utilizing Ava’s unique combination of AI-powered speech recognition technology and live captioners. Ava’s machine and human intelligence hybrid approach with Scribe enables Ava’s customers to quickly and affordably meet the increasing demand for captioning services, since  traditional solutions typically cost at least twice as much as Ava. 

“By initially focusing on the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, Ava has built best-in-class live transcription technology. Their technology is exceptional, years ahead of what we’ve seen, fully leveraging their deep understanding of AI,” said Alda Leu Dennis, General Partner at Initialized Capital. “Transcription services have broad applicability to everyday life — I regularly use closed captioning when watching videos so I don’t miss a thing. And I’m excited that Ava brings this service to real time conversations and allows others to catch every moment.”

“Ava has been able to address the long-standing challenge of high-quality meeting transcription and speaker diarization” adds Kanu Gulati, investor at Khosla Ventures.

”The technology they have built is remarkable; this along with the real time professional grade scribe service has the ability to transform the professional transcription market. I'm thrilled to be an investor in the company.”

Ava Captions and Scribe are available as of today via the company’s website, https://www.ava.me

About Ava 

Ava’s software helps the 450M+ deaf and hard-of-hearing people across the globe participate in daily life with on-demand captions for in-person and virtual conversations. Ava’s technology is the first built for group conversations to label speakers clearly and accurately in real-time. Based in San Francisco, the company was founded by Thibault Duchemin who grew up as the only hearing person in his deaf family and whose mission it is to bridge the communication gaps he has experienced his whole life. For more information, visit http://www.ava.me

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