Apple buys UK speech recognition firm Novauris to help improve Siri

04 April 2014

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Voice recognition is a timely science not only because of all the human-automobile communication offered by car companies, but also by smart devices and their growing use of voice interfaces. It won’t be long until we operate many of our appliances by voice command.

Most present-day offerings require you to follow a menu, a convoluted non-intuitive form of communication. Few have the technology to enable consumers to ask for information quickly, easily, and without needing time-consuming complicated dialogues – but many companies are working on solving these problems.

Apple and Siri are at the forefront of handling free form conversational speech – and Apple’s acquisition of Novauris, a UK speech recognition company – will help in that pursuit. Terms and amount paid for the transaction – which occurred late last year – are unknown, but Novauris’ co-founder Melvyn Hunt confirmed the sale to a TechCrunch analyst.

Talent in this field is scarce and many companies have chosen to acquire that talent – and their software, patents and intellectual property (IP) libraries – for their various voice recognition quests.

These are a few of the companies developing and offering all sorts of consumer conversation recognition systems and context understanding systems from which instructions and responses are developed:

  • Nuance (which recently acquired Vlingo)
  • Evi by TrueKnowledge (which was acquired by Amazon)
  • Alfred (which was acquired and then shut down by Google)
  • Cue (which was acquired and then shut down by Apple)
  • Novauris Technologies (acquired by Apple)
  • Siri (which uses Apple and Nuance technology)
  • Okay Google by Google

Notice the pattern? Apple, Google, Amazon and Nuance appear to be hot on the trail of being able to capture conversational instructions, convert the words into context, determine the instructions required, and then process those instructions. Speed is helped by experience, and Apple, Google, Amazon and Nuance are gathering that experience and processing hundreds of millions of spoken words every day.

It really won’t be long until you and your refrigerator are having a meaningful conversation.

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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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