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The Roxy smart speaker with its new phone capabilities. (Roxy Photo)

Roxy, a Seattle startup that offers a customizable voice assistant and touch screen smart speaker for the hotel industry, added a new voice calling feature in a bid to eliminate the need for phones in rooms.

The company says hotel phones are among the least-used and most expensive pieces of equipment in the room, making them ripe for replacement. In addition to the voice-calling feature, guests can issue commands through the voice-activated speaker, also named Roxy, to order room service, get more towels, and other typical hotel tasks.

Roxy works with hotels to add custom commands that are easier for guests and build what the company says are more comprehensive capabilities than other speech-enabled assistants. The company also recently added a “small talk conversational engine,” that can conduct basic conversations and help get people up to speed about Roxy’s capabilities.

In November, the five-person company raised a $2.2 million seed round that included investors from the hotel industry, a New York startup studio, a Chinese company and Cooper Manning, the brother of famed NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning.

Le “Grace” Huang, Cam Urban and Peng “Michael” Shao. (Roxy Photo)

The device today is live in numerous hotels, including Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Wash., Hotel G and Adante Hotel in San Francisco, Senza Hotel in Napa, Calif., Jupiter Hotel in Portland and Hotel Blu in Vancouver B.C. Until now, Roxy has been testing devices in just a few rooms, and now it is starting to do full rollouts to every room in a hotel.

Roxy will double the number of rooms using its devices this month. And the company is gearing up to work with one of the major chains, but it wouldn’t say which one.

Roxy’s focus on businesses rather than consumers has differentiated it from the rest of the smart speaker market, where tech giants like Amazon, Google and others are battling it out. But Amazon jumped into the enterprise market last year with a business-focused version of its digital brain Alexa. And Amazon installed Echo speakers in more than 4,700 rooms at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Roxy’s CEO Cam Urban has started several companies in his career, including Jellyfish Art, before becoming a program manager with Microsoft Azure. Co-founder Peng “Michael” Shao was a leader on the cloud speech team at Amazon focused on the voice-activated technology that powers Alexa. Le “Grace” Huang, another co-founder, has an undergraduate degree in automation and spent four years as a web developer at Amazon, working on projects like Amazon Coins and the Kindle Device Store.

The three founders crossed paths at the University of Washington by chance about two years ago, when they were each looking for new career directions. Shao and Huang had left Amazon, and they were working on an app to communicate with cars via voice commands at the UW CoMotion innovation hub. Urban, who had recently left Microsoft and was working on a new project of his own, toured the facility and was introduced to his future co-founders.

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