Intel, Samsung, Telefonica endorse anticipatory computing, invest in Expect Labs

Expect Labs’ mission to do away with the search box and put our computers to work for us just got three big votes of confidence: Intel,(s INTC) Samsung and Telefonica have invested, the company plans to announce on Tuesday.

The 12-person San Francisco startup, headed by CEO Tim Tuttle, already had $2.4 million in hand from investors like Google,(s GOOG) Greylock Partners, Bessemer Ventures and others. Tuttle refused to give the total value of the trio’s new investment except to say it exceeds all previous funding.

The backing of leading companies from the consumer device, semiconductors and telecommunications worlds is a significant endorsement of the company’s vision.

“We’re still a small company, but we have the backers and team to make a serious run at solving a very hard problem,” Tuttle said in a phone interview. “Which is, how do we get computing devices and applications to understand everything we say and find stuff before we need to search for it?”

That vision — which is shared with others working in predictive computing — is that our computers should push information to us, instead of us having to constantly ask. Expect Labs’ videoconferencing iPad app, MindMeld, is a basic example of what it’s working on: as a conversation is taking place, the contents of it are being analyzed and relevant information pops up in response to what’s being said.

Expect Labs’ three new investors seem to be positioning themselves for the future of computing that’s defined by natural interfaces: touch, gesture and voice. Samsung is one of the biggest consumer electronics makers in the world and will probably want to be able to offer natural interfaces with its TV and mobile devices one day; Intel makes sensors that will pick up inputs like voice; and Telefonica could theoretically use something like what Expect Labs is offering and turn computers listening to phone calls into an additional service for individuals and businesses.

Expect Labs’ partnership deal with Nuance(s NUAN) Communications, signed last year, will continue, Tuttle said.

With the fresh round of capital, Tuttle says he plans to grow his team with experts in machine learning and language analysis, and scale up the company’s current infrastructure.