Tech Transformers

Voysis launches AI voice assistant to help online retailers battle Amazon

Key Points
  • The Irish start-up launched an artificial intelligence voice assistant that it is aiming to license to retailers
  • It is hoping this will help retailers compete with Amazon and its Alexa voice assistant
  • Voysis' technology is specifically designed for e-commerce
CEO of Voysis, Peter Cahill.

Irish start-up Voysis has created an artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant that it is aiming to license to retailers in a bid to help them compete with e-commerce titan Amazon.

Voysis' voice technology, which launched Thursday, can be integrated into an online retailer's app or mobile website allowing shoppers to buy products using their voices.

It's a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants.

While Alexa may seem the natural fit for retailers to partner with, given the size of the company and the heavy investment it is putting on AI, Voysis argues that stores could lose the ability to know their customers by partnering with Amazon.

"Retailers know that their customers don't know what they want when they come to their site. That's why so many have invested in website tools, retargeting and more. We help them give users a better mobile search experience, helping them find what they're looking for much faster," Voysis CEO Peter Cahill told CNBC by email.

"Amazon also owns the relationship with the customer on its platform and retailers could be justified in thinking Amazon would attempt to usurp their position in the market. With Voysis Commerce, every brand and retailer can have it's own Alexa."

Amazon's voice assistant works via "Skills". These are essentially apps that developers can make that work with Alexa. For example, a news website could create a skill for Alexa that allows a user to ask for the main headlines.

But not many retailers have created skills for Amazon. In the U.K., Ocado has made a skill that lets users shop via Alexa, and in the U.S. 1-800 Flowers allows people to place orders via voice.

Voysis is hoping to establish itself as the major voice assistant in the space.

But it faces a tough task. Amazon already has hundreds of developers on board, and the scale of the platform could make it appealing to potential retailers. On top of that, it has managed to launch its voice platform in international markets such as India and Japan, which could allow it to tap retailers in those countries.

Earlier this year, Voysis raised $8 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Polaris Partners.