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AI Startup Blue Canoe Learning Raises $1.4M to Overcome the “Last Mile” of English Language Learning for Non-Native Speakers

Accepted into the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Incubator, Startup Uses Brain Research, Speech Recognition and Machine Learning to Improve Pronunciation and Provide the First Objective Pronunciation Scoring System

Blue Canoe Learning, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that helps non-native English speakers improve their pronunciation, announced it has raised an initial $1.4M investment from Kernel Labs and others, and has been accepted as the first company in the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2)’s new incubator program.

While there are many language programs that help learners with memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules to become proficient in reading and writing English, learning as an adult to speak fluently is a challenging “last mile” that standard teaching methods usually fail. Blue Canoe is the first application to digitize the Color Vowel® System, a language program utilized by top institutions including the US Department of State, the Peace Corps, and leading universities such as Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown. The Color Vowel System goes beyond using solely the language center of the brain by engaging the visual, kinesthetic, musical and rhythmic centers to help learners hear and produce the sounds of English.

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“We’re thrilled to announce this new funding and our AI2 partnership to fuel our mission to help non-native English speakers overcome barriers through our unique technology,” said Sarah Daniels, CEO and co-founder of Blue Canoe. “As the need for English speakers rises around the world, businesses have poured more funds into English language solutions, with limited results. Now with Blue Canoe’s proven methodology based on brain science, speech recognition powered by machine learning, and gamification, we have a solution that works. Businesses have clear benefits in happier customers, better internal communication, and increased employee loyalty.”

Blue Canoe will launch its pilot program later this year, and its corporate customers will provide the app to their non-native speaking employees to play for just 10 minutes a day on their phones. With patent-pending speech recognition and machine learning technology, learners get personalized feedback on their spoken English that is uniquely effective. In addition, both learners and their managers get insights from dashboards that track each learner’s objective Pronunciation Score and show how it changes over time.

Daniels and her team founded the company in 2016 after realizing that a lack of clear and comprehensible spoken English skills is a gigantic problem both for the companies that employ non-native speakers and the employees themselves. Blue Canoe has an initial investment from Kernel Labs, and joined the AI2 incubator program in October.

“AI2 is excited to be a part of the Blue Canoe journey. The team has done a great job in creating an app that uses machine learning to solve a large and meaningful problem, delivering immediate personalized feedback to help non-native English speakers identify and fix errors in their pronunciation. This will provide great value to businesses and their customers,” said Dr. Oren Etzioni, CEO AI2.

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