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Will Novauris Buy Improve Siri's Accuracy?

Will Novauris Buy Improve Siri's Accuracy?
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Apple is buying Novauris, in part, to bring what is now a core piece of functionality in-house. Siri was a breakthrough product when it was introduced. However, it hasn't kept pace with users' increasing expectations. Apple's Novauris buy will help users interact more "naturally" with Siri on devices and in the car, said analyst Greg Sterling.
 



If you’ve been less than thrilled with some of Siri’s renditions of your voice commands, take heart. Apple has acquired Novauris Technologies to improve her hearing.

Novauris could help, considering the team that launched the United Kingdom-based software company worked for the likes of Dragon Systems. Dragon is a popular and accurate dictation tool.

Apple first launched Siri in 2011. Siri rolled out as a revolutionary “intelligent assistant” for its iOS devices that promised to help you get things done just by asking. Siri works to understand context so you can speak naturally when you ask it questions. But Siri has scrambled plenty of words, leading to exposes by various Web sites detailing just how bad Siri is, quirky answers and bad translations.

Siri Getting More Competitive

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the buy -- the financial terms of which have not been disclosed. He told us Apple has been relying primarily on Nuance for speech recognition and processing up until this point.

“However, competition in the ‘personal assistant’ segment is intensifying,” Sterling said. “Microsoft introduced Cortana this week. I don't believe this acquisition is a direct response to Cortana.”

Microsoft is billing Cortana as “the world’s first truly personal digital assistant.” A popular “Halo” character inspires its personality but it gets its knowledge from Bing. Microsoft said Cortana gets to know you and works better as time passes because it asks questions based on your behavior and checks in with you before making assumptions. That’s a different market than Apple is going after with Siri, but shows how the voice recognition movement is evolving.

Siri Raises the Bar

As Sterling sees it, the Novauris buy will help users interact more "naturally" with Siri on devices and in the car. He said it’s about bolstering Apple devices' capacity to recognize and understand human speech more flexibly.

“It also appears to be about Apple bringing what is now a core piece of functionality in-house,” Sterling said. “Siri was a breakthrough product when it was introduced several years ago. However, it hasn't kept pace with users' increasing expectations.”

Indeed, and as Sterling already noted, competition is rising in the field. Last August, Facebook get vocal with a Jibbigo voice recognition buy. Travelers use Jibbigo to communicate in foreign countries and healthcare workers overcome the language challenge in humanitarian missions. Facebook has yet to integrate it.

About a year ago, Amazon snapped up Ivona Software, a text-to-speech technology company. Ivona's technologies power several features on the Kindle Fire tablets. Beyond Amazon, Ivona also delivers text-to-speech products and services for thousands of developers, businesses and customers globally, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
 

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