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Apple reportedly partnering with Nuance rather than Microsoft for iOS 5 voice recognition

post #1 of 30
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A new report indicates that Apple has deepened its partnership with speech recognition firm Nuance to deliver voice recognition features in iOS 5, edging out alternative software from Microsoft in the company's bid to roll out voice features competitive with Google's Android.

Apple has been expected to add voice recognition personal assistant features to iOS since its acquisition of Siri last year. The company has also listed jobs for positions including an "iOS Speech Operations Engineer," which sought candidates familiar with products such as Nuance Recognizer, IBM WebSphere Voice and Google Voice.

Voice related features are just the latest area where Apple has retreated from its original iPhone partnerships with Google following the competitive development of Android, which Google leads. Apple has since added search support for Microsoft Bing, has developed its own iAd mobile advertising program, and is believed to be working on mapping technologies independently from its once close partnership with Google.

Google is well ahead of Apple in a variety of voice-based technologies, already having integrated support for various services in Android, some of which it also makes available to iOS users (including Google Translate).

According to a report by Tech Crunch, Apple is deepening its relationship with Nuance, and already running the firm's software in its massive new North Carolina data center. The company has until now only officially reported that the new data center will support iTunes and MobileMe services, without detailing exactly what types of services it would be hosting.



Apple's Siri acquisition was dependent upon Nuance technology, likely the reason why Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak once stated that Apple had purchased Nuance, an error he later corrected. Unlike streaming media delivery, which benefits from a broad and decentralized content delivery network, hosting centralized voice recognition services would likely make more sense as a primary role of the Apple's new data center.

According to Tech Crunch, Apple has engaged in "months of tense negotiations" with Nuance to ensure that it could continue to use the firm's technology on its own hardware, allowing it to potentially "build on top of the technology." The report also noted that Nuance holds key voice-related patents and that most of the talent with expertise in voice recognition already work for Nuance or Google, making a partnership with the firm preferable to in-house development.

The report also claimed via "an anonymous tipster" that Microsoft "had been pushing Apple hard" to use its own voice recognition technology in iOS, only to be "rebuffed" by Apple's increasingly close partnership with Nuance. Apple is expected to announce voice recognition features and services within iOS 5 at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco during the first week of June.

It is not yet known whether Apple will primarily be leveraging the new technology for its own first party services, such as a rebranded version of Siri, or whether it will also be making those services broadly available to third parties to use in their own apps, following the model Apple used to deliver push notifications and Game Center collaboration features in iOS.
post #2 of 30
Spare no expense, Apple.
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post #3 of 30
I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.
post #4 of 30
I've been impressed with the engine (as used by Dragon) and had a friend that worked for them. They have done some really cool stuff - and enabled lots of other (e.g., Siri).

I think Apple is making the right choice. I'm sure Steve Jobs will be relieved to know that I approve - LOL.
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

Apple (for the most part) buys companies for the people, not the technology.
post #6 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

1) Apple might need Siris IP regardless of licensing with Nuance.

2) Apple could have made a poor decision in their acquisition thinking they they could out invent Nuance once they had Siri.

3) It could be part of some much more complex purchase where Siri shows a good faith investment for Nuances backend.

4) Something else entirely.
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post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lewisdorigo View Post

Apple (for the most part) buys companies for the people, not the technology.

That doesnt seem cost effective. Why spend a couple hundred million on a company if you only want a handful of people who you could a lot of money to over a very long time instead of a huge lump sum. Even PA Semis staff walked after the acquisition.
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post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lewisdorigo View Post

Apple (for the most part) buys companies for the people, not the technology.

I'm pretty sure they buy them for both it's just that being so far out in front and having been around for so long and invented/pioneered so many things themselves, it's rare that another company is going to have any really crucial IP.

The original poster asked the wrong question. It's not the patents but the agreements & licenses that allows Siri and Lala to do the things they do/did. Generally when you buy a company, the licensing agreements don't transfer over. So any streaming agreements with media companies for instance don't apply in the new entity.
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

Allow me. The Siri Assistant is essentially a user interface. Instead of typing in (or fingering in) a query, a question, a search, etc., you can simply speak.

The Assistant app is built on top of a speech recognition engine, which is from Nuance Communications. Now, Nuance makes many application products itself but Siri is specifically built for voice-activated search on the iPhone. Without Nuance's back-end speech conversion engine, Siri would need to use another. Nuance is considered the best.
post #10 of 30
isn't voice recognition technology mostly American English or are there other languages being offered?

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post #11 of 30
This article was the first time I'd seen mention that Google had developed it's own speech recognition engine. I'd always assumed they had licensed Nuance or some other existing software.
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post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

This article was the first time I'd seen mention that Google had developed it's own speech recognition engine. I'd always assumed they had licensed Nuance or some other existing software.

No they had a service which has since been discontinued Goog411. They discontinued it after they captured enough different speech patterns to develop and perfect their own algorithms which is now used in Google Voice and Google App. I think the Google recognition is about equal to Siri at least in terms of recognizing my voice, which I find to be about roughly 70-80%

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post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

No they had a service which has since been discontinued Goog411. They discontinued it after they captured enough different speech patterns to develop and perfect their own algorithms which is now used in Google Voice and Google App. I think the Google recognition is about equal to Siri at least in terms of recognizing my voice, which I find to be about roughly 70-80%

Thanks for that. I didn't know.
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post #14 of 30
how do you use the voice engine at the server level wouldn't latency hurt and it would depend on the 3g service to use well
, i thought the dragon speak app was local to the iphone, are they doing a "onstar" type service, still why such a large data center
how would nuance engine running the data center help my iphone 5

well i sure wish apple had a safe solution for texting, reply to text, email, and feeding facebook.
vlingo is partnering with blueant, but i thought that would be a downloaded app on the iPhone or blueant device,
jabra cruiser 2 says it will read and you can reply to texts

is that where this is going?
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post #15 of 30
Microsoft had purchased TellMe a few years ago which is how they got into the 'voice navigated web' game. TellMe had great technology and I used to sell them Sun gear. The backend of their applications were built on x86 hardware and Solaris.

Nuance is also a former customer, of mine, and they seemed to have great technology too. I think relationships are probably as or more important when choosing a particular solution. One factor may be that Apple simply has much more leverage over a small company, like Nuance, then they do over a behemoth like Microsoft.
post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

To my understanding, Nuance handles the voice recognition algorithms. Siri, makes use of that technology for specific applications, linking in various databases about weather, restaurant reservations, movie times, etc. They also have software that recognizes the user's questions in context. That is, it remembers what you've been talking about so that you can have a "conversation" with the app naturally.

Either way, I'm really excited about iOS 5. There are so many elements that seem to be a recipe for something big:
-iPad 2
-Siri + Nuance
-North Carolina data center
-MobileMe revamp? iCloud?
-slight delay for both hardware and software cycles = something big?

Hopefully everything will come together at WWDC
post #17 of 30
direct dictation for mail pretty please!
post #18 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

Siri is not just about voice recognition technology even more important is their research on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and semantic understanding.

Take a look here
http://vimeo.com/5424527
post #19 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

isn't voice recognition technology mostly American English or are there other languages being offered?

I have never been able to make use of any voice recognition software. I think I speak fairly clearly but evidently I don't. Even when I talk slowly and pause between words (or not), I spend more time cleaning up than I would typing. We have discussed this before and as has been pointed out MANY times in MANY ways, speech recognition has a long way to go. Being able to speak an address whilst driving and then be told how to get there would be one of the most useful applications. Personally I think we are MANY years away.
post #20 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post

I really don't understand why they purchased siri if they didn't come with the patents that let them use the service. What was the point of purchasing siri? Why not just partner with nuance from the beginning?

Someone please fill me in.

My guess is that Apple acquired Siri mainly for Siri's employees. It's very common in the tech sector and easier than trying to recruit employees away from another company, especially if those employees own stock.
post #21 of 30
Guys, Siri and Nuance do different things. In fact, rumour has it that Nuance wanted to buy Siri but Apple got there first.
post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by karmadave View Post

Microsoft had purchased TellMe a few years ago which is how they got into the 'voice navigated web' game. TellMe had great technology and I used to sell them Sun gear. The backend of their applications were built on x86 hardware and Solaris.

Nuance is also a former customer, of mine, and they seemed to have great technology too. I think relationships are probably as or more important when choosing a particular solution. One factor may be that Apple simply has much more leverage over a small company, like Nuance, then they do over a behemoth like Microsoft.

</lurking>
I've been intrigued by developments in this field since General Magic spun off from Apple in the mid nineties. Surely we are just seeing the fruition of their original vision for a voice oriented PDA. I wonder how many of the personalities from GenMagic/Portico are involved in this play?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Magic

The other thread of interest is the whereabouts of Andrew Taylor: Power Secretary > MacSpeech > Nuance >> ?
post #23 of 30
Googles voice recognition software doesn't work very well.
Especially if you try a language like Dutch. But no matter what language, short sentence work only sometimes and fail to be recognized frequently. Another problem is that the voice recognition software frequently fails spectacularly and the end result doesn't come close to the meaning of the input.
It seems nearly impossible to create software thats able to perceive speech a good as humans do. But maybe Apple can improve significantly compared to Google.

J.
post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A new report indicates that Apple has deepened its partnership with speech recognition firm Nuance to deliver voice recognition features in iOS 5, edging out alternative software from Microsoft

Well, they probably just wanted a product that works without crashing every five minutes.
post #25 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lewisdorigo View Post

Apple (for the most part) buys companies for the people, not the technology.

Well, they bought Siri for the people who were BEST at doing Voice Recognition apps, and partner with Nuance to get the best Tech and avoid the most lawsuits.

No need to actually purchase Nuance,.. for that reason.


>> I think that Apple has been VERY SMART about their purchases. It isn't about owning the most IP -- it's about having the most CONCENTRATED TALENT. Every acquisition, requires attention, and someone SMART to integrate it -- otherwise, why acquire it in the first place? If your really SMART integrators, are wasting time with, you know, things like Skype, which is really a purchase of LOTS OF EYEBALLS from Microsoft for $8.5 Billion -- then you distract your talent pool developing something really cool, with lots of eyeballs that DOESN'T MAKE MONEY.


Apple seems to have 3 major laws - and this applies to their apps, hardware and strategic acquisitions;
1) If we implement (buy) this, will it make money -- if not, can someone else develop it without keeping us out (then, utilize open source). Microsoft and Google seem to buy things IN CASE others might use it against them -- and then they lose focus and build huge dead zones of once promising applications.

2) Does this technology work with and enhance our core competencies? (if not, then let it pass and keep an eye on it, but we cannot be ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE).

3) WHAT IS THE LEAST WE CAN DO, and still do what we do? Now, people might think that is a Lazy argument -- but it's really a matter of focus. You don't want Garageband applications sucking in Photos do you? The IOS made a great platform, and Apple was ridiculed (at first) for really lame, simple applications that shipped with it. The developer community, filled the void with really cool, really great applications -- and we've all forgotten this was the HUGE problem with the iPhone in the first 6 months, don't we? You can also call this; Keep it Simple Stupid.
post #26 of 30
GAudi was the name of Google's audio indexing project. More info here: http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/200...-indexing.html

It eventually became what is now their voice/speech recognition technology. They idea was to index audio within videos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

No they had a service which has since been discontinued Goog411. They discontinued it after they captured enough different speech patterns to develop and perfect their own algorithms which is now used in Google Voice and Google App. I think the Google recognition is about equal to Siri at least in terms of recognizing my voice, which I find to be about roughly 70-80%
post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fake_William_Shatner View Post

...
3) WHAT IS THE LEAST WE CAN DO, and still do what we do? Now, people might think that is a Lazy argument -- but it's really a matter of focus. You don't want Garageband applications sucking in Photos do you? The IOS made a great platform, and Apple was ridiculed (at first) for really lame, simple applications that shipped with it. The developer community, filled the void with really cool, really great applications -- and we've all forgotten this was the HUGE problem with the iPhone in the first 6 months, don't we? You can also call this; Keep it Simple Stupid.


In the startup space this is called MVP - Minimal Viable Product (a term either created or popularized by Paul Graham of YCombinator).

So take your idea, distill it to the bare minimum that still interests people. Sell it.

It's nice to see that Apple's culture shares a lot with startup culture. Both of which can be wickedly efficient when done right (and ignored when it's not). In the startup world, users "pick" winners that the VCs fund. In the Apple world, creative and design team pick winners that Steve and the VPs fund (or not).
post #28 of 30
9to5Mac is reporting the voice paks in the latest Lion build match those belonging to Nuance. Pretty much confirms that's the direction Apple has chosen.

http://www.9to5mac.com/66921/nuance-...ch-technology/
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post #29 of 30
Wish there had been some mention of this...

"My 8th grade math teacher once said: "You can't help it if you're dumb, you are born that way. But stupid is self inflicted."" -Hiro. 

...sometimes it's both
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"My 8th grade math teacher once said: "You can't help it if you're dumb, you are born that way. But stupid is self inflicted."" -Hiro. 

...sometimes it's both
Reply
post #30 of 30
Yes, this was very disappointing after all the rumors concerning deep voice integration. How long before the acquisition of Sirus bear some discernible fruit?
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