Apple enhances Siri team with purchase of VocalIQ, a car-focused British speech tech firm

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2015
Natural language processing firm VocalIQ, a U.K. company with a particular interest in voice control within automobiles, has reportedly been acquired by Apple, in a likely attempt to bolster its voice-driven personal assistant Siri.




Apple confirmed the deal to the Financial Times, but declined to give anymore specifics, such as a purchase price, for its latest acquisition. While VocalIQ's technology could be applied in a number of ways, the company was especially focused on voice recognition in the automotive world, where it worked on projects with General Motors.

Like Siri, VocalIQ's technology is focused on the understanding of natural language, allowing users to interact with their devices in a casual, conversational way rather than memorizing prompts that the system will understand.

The company stems from the University of Cambridge Dialogue Systems Group. It's expected that the VocalIQ team will remain in Cambridge, according to the Times.

VocalIQ's website remains online, including a blog post from the company in March of this year where it dismissed Apple's Siri as simply a "toy." Still, VocalIQ ranked Siri better than other voice-driven competitors, most of which have been simply "forgotten," they wrote.

"The consumer demand for a self-learning multi-domain conversational voice system where consumers can freely talk about movies, restaurants, music, hotel bookings and the meaning of life, is huge and undeniable," the post reads. "The first one to meet that demand will rule the smartphone and wearables market for the next decade."

VocalIQ's involvement with the automotive world is also likely to drive speculation about the prospects for a connected Apple vehicle. Rumors have persisted throughout 2015 suggesting that an "Apple Car" being developed under the codename "Project Titan" is the Cupertino company's next major new product category.

Apple is said to be working on its project largely at a secretive facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., known by the code-name "SG5." AppleInsider uncovered evidence earlier this year suggesting that a shell company known as SixtyEight Research may be a cover for Apple to help conceal its true operations at the Sunnyvale garage.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Coolness! Siri needs a brain check.... I use her more than anyone one else I know, but I still have trouble with it.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I've never had any problem with Siri's recognition, in fact I've been quite impressed with how it understands words from the context, even if I'm mumbling.

    Recognition is not Siri's issue, it's understanding. Understanding what a sentence means, whether it's speech or text or braille or something else.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,089member
    Siri a toy, I agree with that, but I have to add that it is an annoying toy.
    My point that Siri consists of a set of canned replies with a random element on a set of canned sentences seems to be true. No NLP parsing in sight.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!
  • Reply 5 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member
    ascii wrote: »
    I've never had any problem with Siri's recognition, in fact I've been quite impressed with how it understands words from the context, even if I'm mumbling.

    Recognition is not Siri's issue, it's understanding. Understanding what a sentence means, whether it's speech or text or braille or something else.

    My only issue these days is she simply doesn't know enough local geography. Not her fault but her trainers ;). As an example we have a major road here called Bee Ridge Road, she cannot understand this and insists on assuming it is B Ridge as in letter B I am asking for and says there is no such address. Contextual AI should know this city has such a road. I just checked and Maps knows the address so Siri presumably does but is stuck with the homophone.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member
    inkling wrote: »
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!

    Could be worse ;)
  • Reply 7 of 35
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,965member
    inkling wrote: »
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!

    Consider yourself lucky. I get shown a minge. :lol:

    Edit: on second thought maybe you're unlucky. ;)
  • Reply 8 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member
    inkling wrote: »
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!

    I just asked Siri for 'pictures of kitties' and got a load of wee kitten pics. I didn't try pussies.
  • Reply 9 of 35
    As an example we have a major road here called Bee Ridge Road, she cannot understand this and insists on assuming it is B Ridge as in letter B I am asking for and says there is no such address.m.

    Ironically she does not have issues with the term "Bee Ridge Rd, exit" to see about how long it should take to get me there when traffic is heavy on I-75. I occasionally might have to draw out my Beeeeee a bit if she doesn't get it the first time however. But trying to get an address on Bee Ridge never works out.
  • Reply 10 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member
    Ironically she does not have issues with the term "Bee Ridge Rd, exit" to see about how long it should take to get me there when traffic is heavy on I-75. I occasionally might have to draw out my Beeeeee a bit if she doesn't get it the first time however. But trying to get an address on Bee Ridge never works out.

    Well good to know it's not my English accent on 'Bee' LOL. Cheers. How's PC?
  • Reply 11 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,588member
    inkling wrote: »
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!
    Credit to Siri. What you are not understanding is how Siri's response is very mature and quite sophisticated. "Siri, Show me a Kitty" could elicit the response "Why, bugger off you pervert", or "just tell me what you really want to see". Siri kindly assumes you don't really want to see another damned picture of a cat in case she offends you. She assumes you'd ask to see a picture of a "kitty cat" if that was the case. ;) Are you doing this with your child or grand child, by any chance? See what happens if the child asks. If Siri shows a picture of a cat it proves she is really smart and you owe her an apology.
  • Reply 12 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,588member
    I just asked Siri for 'pictures of kitties' and got a load of wee kitten pics. I didn't try pussies.

    I tried "show me a pussy". The results were mixed, to say the least.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,741member
    inkling wrote: »
    Sadly, still no Siri, age-tailored for kids. When I ask, "Show me a kitty," it shows me a news story about a Scandinavia band. Weird!

    You have to know *how* to ask.

    There is no "kitty." That's too colloquial. However, there is "kitten." Better to go for variety and say "kittens."

    "Show me kittens." But "show" how? Show WHAT of kittens?

    "Show me PHOTOS of kittens."

    Meowch better. ;)
  • Reply 14 of 35
    knowitall wrote: »
    Siri a toy, I agree with that, but I have to add that it is an annoying toy.
    My point that Siri consists of a set of canned replies with a random element on a set of canned sentences seems to be true. No NLP parsing in sight.

    Funny thing, you know? The complaint with virtual assistants before Siri was that the canned responses were not random in some cases and were the same every time. As the audience gets more sophisticated they start getting higher standards. Artificial intelligence is a really neat field.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    sirlance99sirlance99 Posts: 1,097member
    Siri still has issues with know when a business will close for the day. I'll ask "When does Target close?" and she'll not get it. Sometimes she thinks I say clothes. Or she just says I've found two places named Target.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Another thing under Eddy Cue's leadership that is far from perfect. Siri should be so much better than it is right now. And once again I was using Apple Music and having issues playing songs getting error messages that the song couldn't be downloaded (I was trying to play it not download it) or it would play a few seconds of the song and then go silent. I think Apple needs a new role for Eddy that doesn't involve internet services.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    ascii wrote: »
    I've never had any problem with Siri's recognition, in fact I've been quite impressed with how it understands words from the context, even if I'm mumbling.

    Recognition is not Siri's issue, it's understanding. Understanding what a sentence means, whether it's speech or text or braille or something else.

    Lol. Me too! I'm a umbler too but I do use a wireless headset (Powerbeats 2) so maybe having the mic close to my mouth helps? Distance doesn't seem to be an issue. I leave my phone in the upstairs bedroom then access Siri from the downstairs kitchen. I like that he repeats everything before sending in case I do need to make changes.

    But maybe Siri is picking up too much room noise/talking when using the speaker - talk at the phone technique?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    Well now we know what Apple opening office space in Cambridge was all about - buyout scouting.
    Interesting article on vocaliq's site....
    "Smartphone makers to consumers: "Lend Me Your Ears!"
    The fight for the visual user-experience (UX) is over. Apple won. The rest; Android, Windows Phone and various other Linux based platforms are at best, poor copies.

    Unless some new tectonic development in UX happens, the current position of market shares (and money shares) in smartphones is expected to continue for the foreseeable future."

    Sounds about right..
  • Reply 19 of 35
    idreyidrey Posts: 640member
    Sweet! Every improvement is welcome.
  • Reply 20 of 35
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    Another thing under Eddy Cue's leadership that is far from perfect. Siri should be so much better than it is right now. And once again I was using Apple Music and having issues playing songs getting error messages that the song couldn't be downloaded (I was trying to play it not download it) or it would play a few seconds of the song and then go silent. I think Apple needs a new role for Eddy that doesn't involve internet services.



    Better yet, how about Eddy doing a "Jony Ive" and back away from direct involvement? Apple can have two Cue lieutenants, VP of Digital Content and VP of Digital Services.

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