Apple hiring more Siri engineers, working on evolving API, features, languages

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple has at least two job postings open for "iOS Software Engineers" that describe work on the Siri voice assistant user interface and the development of an Application Programing Interface, indicating continued work on the new feature. Three additional job listings involve porting Siri to other languages, something readers have noted Apple has already collected voice samples for among native speakers.



Now hiring for Siri



"We are looking for an engineer to join the team that implements the UI for Siri," one job posting notes.



"You will primarily be responsible for implementing the conversation view and its many different actions. This includes defining a system that enables a dialog to appear intuitive, a task that involves many subtle UI behaviors in a dynamic, complex system. You will have several clients of your code, so the ability to formulate and support a clear API is needed."



A second job posting elaborates, "This is a broad-ranging task - we take every application that Siri interacts with, distill it down to fundamentals, and implement that application's UI in a theme fitting with Siri. Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS, and you get a good idea of the scope!"



Apple also has three positions listed for "Language Technologies Engineers," tasked with "bringing new languages to Siri, Apple?s new personal assistant technology for iPhone, as well as other cloud based services."







Against it before they were before it



Apple's Siri group has already been described as "one of the largest software teams at Apple," and the series of new positions indicate the project is only growing, both in scope and in importance. Apple is building out Siri both as a strategic feature unique to the iPhone 4S, and as a cloud service that its job listings suggest could find applications among its other products, including the Mac.



After initially being ridiculed by top managers at both Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone as not being "super useful" (Google's Andy Rubin insisted that he he didn't "believe that your phone should be an assistant") leading developers at both Google and Microsoft have since suggested that they are actually ahead of Apple's Siri in terms of voice technology.



Prior to the release of iPhone 4S, both of their platforms actually were, at least in offering OS-integrated support for voice recognition. Across iOS devices apart from the iPhone 4S, Apple is still behind, offering only the basic Voice Commands with no support for voice transcription outside of third party apps. However, Siri breaks new ground far in front of where Google and Microsoft were playing, and Apple is using the new technology to make its latest iPhone 4S its fastest selling smartphone ever.



Baby steps for Siri



Building functional voice-based services isn't just a matter of obtaining state of the art recognition algorithms. Siri was released in "beta," a non-typical move for Apple, in part because the way to improve voice recognition is to have it in wide use, learning from the tasks it is given.



Benoit Maison, who worked for IBM in voice recognition for almost six years, noted in a blog entry today that "it's not just easier" to improve voice recognition while it?s being widely used, "it's the only way!"



"We participated in DARPA-sponsored research projects, fields trials, and actual product development for various applications: dictation, call centers, automotive, even a classroom assistant for the hearing-impaired," Maison writes. "The basic story was always the same: get us more data! (data being in this case transcribed speech recordings)."



He adds, "some researchers have argued that most of the recent improvements in speech recognition accuracy can be credited to having more and better data, not to better algorithms." By having Siri in the wild responding to actual voice requests from real users, Apple is collecting a treasure trove of information it can use to make Siri even better.



On page 2 of 2: Collecting voices to improve results, The first one isn't free



Collecting voices to improve results



Google initiated a telephone based GOOG-411 service in 2007 to provide free, automated, voice-based directory assistance over the phone. After gathering enough data through the service, Google shut the service down last year. Nuance similarly offers a free voice dictation app that provides the company with a way to sample voices. Microsoft, however, is at a disadvantage with Windows Phone because its user base is extremely small and appears not to be gaining any traction in the market, limiting the volume and range of real world samples it can use to improve its service.



While Google has added Voice Actions to Android as a curiosity, Apple's Siri not only signals an intent to deliver an entirely new natural voice interface complementing the multitouch screen of iOS devices, but also threatens Google's middleman status as a search engine. With users performing mobile tasks via apps and with Siri via voice, there's little opportunity left for Google to sell search placement via a conventional page of web results, the area where the company makes most of its money.



Further, Google can't copy Siri on Android without similarly giving up its paid search business model there, and it can't deeply integrate a Siri of its own into iOS, as the only public API for apps on iOS is sandboxed and unable to tightly integrate with other services. This gives Apple a competitive edge with Siri as a hardware maker, rather than solely a licensed platform vendor like Google or Microsoft.







The first one isn't free



Several months prior to Apple's release of Siri in iOS 5, reader Jonathan Truelsen in Denmark reported to AppleInsider that a small team of Americans were recruiting adult native speakers to record common verbal commands in their language, earning a stipend for the 2.5 hour recording session.



The group, promoted via a Facebook event as "the voice project," was not advertised as being sponsored by Apple, but one person that was involved with the project did admit that the company was conducting the sessions, and that the recordings might be incorporated into iOS 5. The recordings were reportedly performed with two iPhone 3G units using Bluetooth headsets.



The commands recorded included checking flight statuses; going to the Internet; checking signal strength; turning on/off bluetooth; finding local companies, restaurants, pubs, cafés; asking scientific questions and history questions; calling phone numbers and contacts and sending an SMS to contact or number. "Sometimes you had make up your own text," Truelsen stated.



After collecting enough paid samples for launch languages, Apple brought Siri to market in German, French and English with variants targeting American, English and Australian accents. Apple plans to expand the languages Siri can understand (including languages like Danish that the company has already apparently paid to sample), but is also working to expand its core functionality, including the range of external services it can query for information.



Apple has already launched at least one external app (Find My Friends) that ties into Siri, even though the app isn't bundled in iOS 5 or shipping on the iPhone 4S. This suggests that the company has future plans to open up Siri to other third parties. Doing so will require user interface integration, however, just as Apple has added Siri-integrated displays and animations that put Notes, Calendars, Contacts, Maps and other connected services right into Siri response page.



At the same time, Apple is also using iPhone 4S users' responses to hone the accuracy of Siri itself. And as it builds server capacity for Siri, it seems likely the company will take its service to other iOS devices and the desktop Mac platform as well, potentially even working Siri into the living room as a voice-based assistant for Apple TV, as some analysts have speculated.



"If the rumors of a speech-enabled Apple TV are true," Maison added, "then Siri will soon have other challenges. For example, far-field speech recognition is notoriously more difficult than with close-talking microphones. She had better take a head start with the iPhone 4S."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    Quote:

    bit about the clandestine iOS 5 voice tests



    Hopefully this will inspire our site's readers to be part of obscure tests like this in the future; never know when it'll be something Apple's doing…



    Going, going, going, and…



    Quote:

    "If the rumors of a speech-enabled Apple [HD]TV are true,"



    BOOM. HAD to put it in there. It has NOTHING to do with anything else, but you HAD to put it in there.
  • Reply 2 of 40
    rhyderhyde Posts: 294member
    Well, hopefully they can put some engineers on figuring out why Siri sucks the life out of my battery in the 4S. Even when not using Siri my battery died half-way through the day. I'm on an international trip with Siri turned off and my battery life is now equivalent to my 3GS. Will need to do some more experimentation when I get home to determine the true cause of battery life failure, but Siri looks to be the main culprit right now.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,122member
    I'm going on the record:



    iTV will not have Siri



    (speech features may be added to the remote app at some stage, but will be more of a gimmick than anything else)
  • Reply 4 of 40
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,152member
    Google today added Arabic and Hebrew speech recognition to their iOS app and it worked really well when I tested it. I really thought that Arabic is hard language for voice recognition but I am more excited now that it is doable. If google can do it then Apple could. Even though speech recognition is part of Siri, it is important part.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rhyde View Post


    Well, hopefully they can put some engineers on figuring out why Siri sucks the life out of my battery in the 4S. Even when not using Siri my battery died half-way through the day. I'm on an international trip with Siri turned off and my battery life is now equivalent to my 3GS. Will need to do some more experimentation when I get home to determine the true cause of battery life failure, but Siri looks to be the main culprit right now.



    It is not Siri that kills your battery. It is most likely something in the OS baseband. I have the same problem.
  • Reply 5 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    I'm going on the record:



    iTV will not have Siri



    (speech features may be added to the remote app at some stage, but that's a different thing, and iTV will per perfectly functional without needing to own an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad)



    Then why even bother releasing an iTV if it's just going to be another television set?
  • Reply 6 of 40
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "If the rumors of a speech-enabled Apple TV are true," Maison added, "then Siri will soon have other challenges. For example, far-field speech recognition is notoriously more difficult than with close-talking microphones. She had better take a head start with the iPhone 4S."



    Someone doesn't get it. You won't be yelling at your TV, you'll be speaking to the device in yout hand.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    I'm going on the record:



    iTV will not have Siri



    (speech features may be added to the remote app at some stage, but that's a different thing, and iTV will per perfectly functional without needing to own an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad)



    1) You're saying that in now will Siri tie into the TV making Siri. This means you won't be able to speak to the remote or iDevice to control your TV via Siri. Again, you're stated that there will be no Siri SW in the TV listening for commands to come from the Siri servers.



    2) Saying something will be perfectly functional without it doesn't mean it won't be more functional with it so saying remotes will still work the same way as before is not an argument that Siri won' be included.
  • Reply 7 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Hopefully this will inspire our site's readers to be part of obscure tests like this in the future; never know when it'll be something Apple's doing…



    Going, going, going, and…



    BOOM. HAD to put it in there. It has NOTHING to do with anything else, but you HAD to put it in there.



    Yeah AI Apple needs YOU! I'd expect dialog such as: Siri, put my Blue Ray disc on pause! Siri, look into the Mini Tower for... Siri, My Flash Player crashed. Can you fix it! Siri, When will my Mac Pro be upgraded?



    Just Kidding guys. Don't hang me!
  • Reply 8 of 40
    I know a lot of people think that Siri will not make it into the living room. I disagree however. It is the only thing that makes any sense, especially after the quote about Steve finally cracking the TV in the Living Room.



    Yes, it is difficult to do.





    Yes, it will have challenges.





    Yet, when has that ever stopped Apple from doing it?
  • Reply 9 of 40
    Apple please, Siri по-руский!
  • Reply 10 of 40
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member
    If and when Apple releases their own TV line, It is pretty obvious that it will be SIRI controlled, as that will be the killer app that differentiates the Apple TV from everybody else's TV. Otherwise, why bother releasing any TV at all?
  • Reply 11 of 40
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Someone doesn't get it. You won't be yelling at your TV, you'll be speaking to the device in yout hand.







    1) You're saying that in now will Siri tie into the TV making Siri. This means you won't be able to speak to the remote or iDevice to control your TV via Siri. Again, you're stated that there will be no Siri SW in the TV listening for commands to come from the Siri servers.



    2) Saying something will be perfectly functional without it doesn't mean it won't be more functional with it so saying remotes will still work the same way as before is not an argument that Siri won' be included.



    I agree 100%. The iphone, iPod Touch, and iPad will be the delivery device for Siri. More importantly, Apple isn't going to take away the touch screen for Apple TV; touch will be an option as well and/or they will work together.



    In fact, I predict that the iPad will benefit just as much from Siri as the iPhone. The iPad will benefit mostly from an integration of Siri with 3rd party apps. People will want to talk and touch at the same time to accomplish tasks in the most efficient way.
  • Reply 12 of 40
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ash471 View Post


    I agree 100%. The iphone, iPod Touch, and iPad will be the delivery device for Siri. More importantly, Apple isn't going to take away the touch screen for Apple TV; touch will be an option as well and/or they will work together.



    In fact, I predict that the iPad will benefit just as much from Siri as the iPhone. The iPad will benefit mostly from an integration of Siri with 3rd party apps. People will want to talk and touch at the same time to accomplish tasks in the most efficient way.



    For the TV a real benenfit Siri could bring would be "Find be every episode of Seinfeld airing in the next week." That is an easy command and parsing of a DB, but that would take us a long time if were to search for these ourselves.
  • Reply 13 of 40
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    I think the biggest impact Siri is going to have is to stall the growth of Google search. I don't necessarily think Siri will diminish Google, but I think every Siri inquiry is a lost opportunity for Google. Google won't be growing with Apple.



    If this happens, it could have a huge impact on Google's financial and stock price. Search related ads is everything to Google. Android can crash and burn and it won't matter one bit. However, a full scale assault by Siri and the App Store could ruin Google.
  • Reply 14 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ...



    Microsoft, however, is at a disadvantage with Windows Phone because its user base is extremely small and appears not to be gaining any traction in the market, limiting the volume and range of real world samples it can use to improve its service.



    ...



    This is a typical example of DED snide reporting... He really has to go out of his way to insert a not-so-subtle dig.

  • Reply 15 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    I'm going on the record:



    iTV will not have Siri



    (speech features may be added to the remote app at some stage, but that's a different thing, and iTV will per perfectly functional without needing to own an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad)



    Siri control of the TV is what Steve was talking about when he said he had "cracked it".



    This does not mean that the TV needs to be Siri-aware. The remote needs to be Siri aware (alone or via a STB).



    With Siri interaction, the TV becomes a totally different resource.



    Not only does it it change how content is delivered... It changes the way it is monetized -- and disintermediates the established TV ecosystem.
  • Reply 16 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post


    Google today added Arabic and Hebrew speech recognition to their iOS app and it worked really well when I tested it. I really thought that Arabic is hard language for voice recognition but I am more excited now that it is doable. If google can do it then Apple could. Even though speech recognition is part of Siri, it is important part.







    It is not Siri that kills your battery. It is most likely something in the OS baseband. I have the same problem.



    How about Farsi -- supposed to be the most pleasing speech sound to the ear.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Someone doesn't get it. You won't be yelling at your TV, you'll be speaking to the device in yout hand.







    1) You're saying that in now will Siri tie into the TV making Siri. This means you won't be able to speak to the remote or iDevice to control your TV via Siri. Again, you're stated that there will be no Siri SW in the TV listening for commands to come from the Siri servers.



    2) Saying something will be perfectly functional without it doesn't mean it won't be more functional with it so saying remotes will still work the same way as before is not an argument that Siri won' be included.



    You understand!
  • Reply 18 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ash471 View Post


    I think the biggest impact Siri is going to have is to stall the growth of Google search. I don't necessarily think Siri will diminish Google, but I think every Siri inquiry is a lost opportunity for Google. Google won't be growing with Apple.



    If this happens, it could have a huge impact on Google's financial and stock price. Search related ads is everything to Google. Android can crash and burn and it won't matter one bit. However, a full scale assault by Siri and the App Store could ruin Google.



    Boom!
  • Reply 19 of 40
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    OK. So I see lots of you talking about the Apple Television as being SIRI controlled. Well one thing that I haven't seen about this is how SIRI is gonna hear you when the friggen volume it turned up? My iPhone has enough trouble hearing me in my Vehicle going down the road. I would like to see how SIRI will distinguish your voice over the voice on the Television?
  • Reply 20 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post


    Siri control of the TV is what Steve was talking about when he said he had "cracked it".



    How do you know that?
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