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Control & Automation

Josh.ai: Yeti, Quark Founders Launch $14,000 Voice-Controlled NLP Home Automation System

Yeti founder Alex Capecelatro reveals first product coming from JStar's Josh.ai, a speech-recognition (natural language processing) startup he founded with Quark founder Tim Gill.

Josh.ai: Yeti, Quark Founders Launch $14,000 Voice-Controlled NLP Home Automation System
Alex Capecelatro, co-founder of Jstar, developer of the Josh.ai voice-controllable home automation system, addresses a tough audience at CEDIA Business Xchange.

Photos & Slideshow

Julie Jacobson · May 18, 2016

If you run in IoT circles, chances are you’ve bumped into Josh.ai by JStar, a start-up that has made itself quite visible over the past year – shaking hands, making friends and tweeting about all things home automation and voice-control.

The visibility might have something to do with the high profiles of Josh co-founders Alex Capecelatro (CEO), who founded the social-networking app Yeti, and Tim Gill (CTO), who founded Quark, the graphics giant.

At the recent CEDIA Business Xchange, hosted by the trade association for the home-technology integrator channel, Capecelatro finally revealed concrete plans for Josh’s natural language processing (NLP) technology in the connected home.

The plans surprised the pre-show audience of about 50 manufacturers, reps, dealers and others allied with the home-technology channel.

The first implementation of Josh.ai will be a box that enables users to control select smart-home devices by voice, speaking in “natural language” with commands such as, “Open the garage door and turn on the kitchen lights” or “Play season two, episode 10 Game of Thrones.”

That wasn’t the surprise. The shocker was that the Josh box will retail for $14,000. It will be sold only through home technology integrators, not direct to consumers. And only 100 lucky, early-adopting customers will be privileged enough to own one this year.

By limiting the availability of Josh, Capecelatro tells CE Pro, the company hopes to heighten the appeal for trendsetters “who want something nobody else has.”

A Skeptical Audience

Calling Amazon Echo a “cute little toy” unworthy of the premium experience delivered by integrators, Capecelatro told the group that Josh favors near-field communications – that is, pressing a button on your smart phone and speaking into it – rather than the far-field, always-listening technology employed by Echo.

Echo can be inaccurate, he said in less-glowing terms.

If users want an on-demand experience with Josh, Capecelatro explained, they can always configure iPads to be always listening.

"The dream," Capecelatro says, "is to have embedded microphones throughout the home," but until then Josh is focusing on near-field chat.

 
Josh.ai voice-controllable home automation through natural language processing (NLP)

The small demonstration Josh provided at the conference featured Sonos speakers, Philips Hue smart bulbs and little fans plugged into Wi-Fi outlets, leading many to wonder why anyone would want a $14,000 accessory for a bunch of $100 DIY devices.

After the demo, Capecelatro explained that Josh was working to integrate with premium products such as Kaleidescape movie servers and Crestron home automation systems, but those products would be difficult to demonstrate in a small breakfast room with weak Internet signals.

Indeed, in his own 10,000-square-foot home in Beverly Hills (shown in video above), Capecelatro uses Josh to control a Lutron Radio Ra 2 lighting-control system.

The wily veterans in the audience were skeptical. One well-known integrator who spoke up said he was “surprised by your arrogance.”

Capecelatro took the hit like a pro, promising to work with the CEDIA community to continue improving on the product.

In any case, CEDIA board member Hagai Feiner, principal of the network provider Access Networks, praised the CEDIA organization for bringing new vendors into the home-technology channel and helping them succeed in the market.

It's not clear what Josh's end-game is. Capecelatro tells us the company's competitive advantage is its natural language processing engine, three years in the making. Clearly, a $14,000 box is just the beginning.


Photo
Gallery

Josh.ai screen shots and more




  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Events · CEDIA · News · Products · CEDIA · Echo · Josh · Voice Control · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by TechJunkiesCA on August 6, 2016

Echo rarely fails me and natively talks to Lutron, Nest, now August and soon Harmony. Most of this functionality is available through the Echo so I would probably choose to save the $14 thousand dollars and place a bunch of echo devices everywhere

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on May 19, 2016

I met Alex for the first time at CEDIA last year.  I was completely against voice control for many of the common reasons but have since come around after getting a better understanding of the technology, potential, and use cases.  Like many technologies, services, and startups in general, they may not succeed, but by going through the CEDIA channel I know that they’re going about it in a way that allows our industry to continue to be the relevant party in our clients’ lives.  Not many companies do this from outside the space and we as an industry should show some love when a company decides to do this (but still give constructive feedback if it’s not the perfect product-market fit).

Amazon and many others circumvent our industry but Jstar is directly engaging.  While the tech or pricing may not be a perfect fit for the entire customer base we serve (like many of the products we sell in the industry), it’s a start.  And it’s nice to see an outsider like Alex engage with the industry with a hot new technology and approach the CEDIA channel as a partner to success instead of attempting a DIY or otherwise direct approach to the consumer.  I hope more companies, technologies, and products from Silicon Valley take this approach as I’m sure it will lead to better experiences and fewer returns.

Posted by Francis Turgeon on May 19, 2016

I don’t see any of my clients paying 14 000$ for a robot voice control and a few pre-programmed answers like “Alright, here you go” everytime you ask for the cameras. At first it can be a fun answer, but if you always get the exact same wording to your requests time after time it gets annoying. To me, that’s not what an AI is…

Posted by Bill Kearney on May 18, 2016

Here’s hoping they don’t let ANY of the Quark personnel anywhere near this venture. Their customer service was utterly contemptible toward customers.  Can’t see that having any place when it comes to automation control.  That and be prepared to ridiculously limiting licensing for the product. 

In short, no thanks.

Posted by Bill Kearney on May 18, 2016

Here’s hoping they don’t let ANY of the Quark personnel anywhere near this venture. Their customer service was utterly contemptible toward customers.  Can’t see that having any place when it comes to automation control.  That and be prepared to ridiculously limiting licensing for the product. 

In short, no thanks.

Posted by Francis Turgeon on May 19, 2016

I don’t see any of my clients paying 14 000$ for a robot voice control and a few pre-programmed answers like “Alright, here you go” everytime you ask for the cameras. At first it can be a fun answer, but if you always get the exact same wording to your requests time after time it gets annoying. To me, that’s not what an AI is…

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on May 19, 2016

I met Alex for the first time at CEDIA last year.  I was completely against voice control for many of the common reasons but have since come around after getting a better understanding of the technology, potential, and use cases.  Like many technologies, services, and startups in general, they may not succeed, but by going through the CEDIA channel I know that they’re going about it in a way that allows our industry to continue to be the relevant party in our clients’ lives.  Not many companies do this from outside the space and we as an industry should show some love when a company decides to do this (but still give constructive feedback if it’s not the perfect product-market fit).

Amazon and many others circumvent our industry but Jstar is directly engaging.  While the tech or pricing may not be a perfect fit for the entire customer base we serve (like many of the products we sell in the industry), it’s a start.  And it’s nice to see an outsider like Alex engage with the industry with a hot new technology and approach the CEDIA channel as a partner to success instead of attempting a DIY or otherwise direct approach to the consumer.  I hope more companies, technologies, and products from Silicon Valley take this approach as I’m sure it will lead to better experiences and fewer returns.

Posted by TechJunkiesCA on August 6, 2016

Echo rarely fails me and natively talks to Lutron, Nest, now August and soon Harmony. Most of this functionality is available through the Echo so I would probably choose to save the $14 thousand dollars and place a bunch of echo devices everywhere