Apple confirms existence of Cambridge Siri R&D lab with new office sign

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple is no longer keeping its Siri research and development office in Cambridge, U.K. a secret, revealing the facility's existence by constructing a sign bearing the company logo beside the building's front door.

The Apple sign outside Apple's Cambridge R&D center in the U.K. (Source: Keith Jones via Cambridge News)
The Apple sign outside Apple's Cambridge R&D center in the U.K. (Source: Keith Jones via Cambridge News)


The sign, displaying a light blue Apple logo on a grey background, sits to the left of steps leading to the entrance of 90 Hills Road, reports Cambridge News. The sudden appearance of the sign is the first real confirmation from Apple that it uses the office, though not what kind of work takes place within its walls.

It is believed the office was opened shortly before Apple acquired VocalIQ, a natural language processing firm spun off from the University of Cambridge Dialogue Systems Group, with the purchase thought to have cost Apple around $100 million in October 2015. While VocalIQ has been involved in automotive voice recognition projects with General Motors, its expertise in language processing is likely to have been refocused on improving Siri.

Before Apple's acquisition, VocalIQ's technology was believed to be more accurate than others in recognizing complex queries, scoring over 90 percent in tests compared to the 20 percent scored by Siri and other rival digital assistants.

Apple has continued to work on improving Siri, and in the last few months the company has become more open to collaboration in its artificial intelligence research. In December 2016, Apple lifted restrictions preventing AI researchers from talking to their peers about their findings, and published its first AI research paper, before signing up as a founding member of the Partnership for AI the following month.

The 90 Hills Road office was renovated shortly before Apple moved in, and is thought consist of more than 9,000 square feet of floor space across two floors and a roof deck. More than 30 people are believed to be working at the facility, including former VocalIQ employees.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Would be an unexpected surprise if Siri suddenly leapfrogged both Amazon and Google in terms of usability.
    tallest skilbrian greenargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 13
    There is so much potential for SIRI. It actually surprises me that real world function is not better than it is...There is a huge opportunity for someone to really advance this with so many real world needs for the function.
    tallest skilcalibrian greenargonaut
  • Reply 3 of 13
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,474member
    I agree with the two posts above.  I'd love to see more functionality unleashed both in iOS and macOS.
    edited February 2017 SpamSandwichbrian greenargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    MacPro said:
    I agree with the two posts above.  I'd love to see more functionality unleashed both in iOS and macOS.
    Me, too. I use Siri every day and for the most part don't have any complaints. It does what I want almost every time and I don't know why people have complaints and compare it to Google Assistant negatively. I love that it has been integrated into Apple TV, as well, and that I can use my Siri Remote to turn on lights, etc. 

    However, I'm very confused as to why only some of Siri's functions work on my Mac. On my Mac if I ask Siri to turn on some lights, for instance, I get a response saying HomeKit isn't supported on the Mac. So, it's smart enough to realize what I'm asking but can't follow through. Weird. 
    SpamSandwichadm1tokyojimucaliStrangeDaysirelandbrian greenargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 13
    adm1adm1 Posts: 877member
    I wonder how much of the 90% accuracy was down to the well-spoken "posh" cambridge english vs american and other local accents/dialects used while testing competing platforms. 
  • Reply 6 of 13
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,474member
    adm1 said:
    I wonder how much of the 90% accuracy was down to the well-spoken "posh" cambridge english vs american and other local accents/dialects used while testing competing platforms. 
    That assumes digital AI systems have the same mental conditioning toward accents as many humans do.   Clearly spoken and similar to how it was trained is obviously key to recognition but I doubt computers have any concept of 'posh'.  After all if you trained an AI recognition system using Tyne side Geordie it would probably fail when Prince Charles tried it.  ;)
    argonaut
  • Reply 7 of 13
    The real problem with Siri is app support.
    You can't expect Apple to do all the leg work of supporting every possible field of human endeavor.
    I have approximately 100-120 apps on my iPhone.
    Only 4 apps support Siri interaction!  Less than 4%!!!

    SiriKit currently supports only 7 domains and intents:
    Ride Booking “Get me a ride to SFO via MyRidesApp.”
    Messaging “Send a text to Carey using MyTextApp.”
    Photo Search “Look for beach photos taken last summer in MyPhotosApp.”
    Payments “Send $100 to John for dinner last night using MyPayApp.”
    VoIP Calling “Call Mike on my MyVoIPApp.”
    Workouts “Start my daily run workout from MyWorkoutApp.”
    Climate and radio (CarPlay) “Set the heater to 72 degrees.”

    Apple needs to significantly expand SiriKit to give more developers the tools to take advantage of it.
    brian greenargonaut
  • Reply 8 of 13
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,080member
    adm1 said:
    I wonder how much of the 90% accuracy was down to the well-spoken "posh" cambridge english vs american and other local accents/dialects used while testing competing platforms. 
    Siri understands my non-rp accent well enough. In fact it used to have problem with posh English. 


  • Reply 9 of 13
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,080member
    The real problem with Siri is app support.
    You can't expect Apple to do all the leg work of supporting every possible field of human endeavor.
    I have approximately 100-120 apps on my iPhone.
    Only 4 apps support Siri interaction!  Less than 4%!!!

    SiriKit currently supports only 7 domains and intents:
    Ride Booking “Get me a ride to SFO via MyRidesApp.”
    Messaging “Send a text to Carey using MyTextApp.”
    Photo Search “Look for beach photos taken last summer in MyPhotosApp.”
    Payments “Send $100 to John for dinner last night using MyPayApp.”
    VoIP Calling “Call Mike on my MyVoIPApp.”
    Workouts “Start my daily run workout from MyWorkoutApp.”
    Climate and radio (CarPlay) “Set the heater to 72 degrees.”

    Apple needs to significantly expand SiriKit to give more developers the tools to take advantage of it.
    It's a difficult API to use. And in many countries Siri doesn't work that well. 

    Personally I'm dubious about speech replacing touch. 
  • Reply 10 of 13
    irelandireland Posts: 17,299member
    Would be an unexpected surprise if Siri suddenly leapfrogged both Amazon and Google in terms of usability.
    It wouldn't matter. The roadmap for vocal digital assistants and voice recognition engines has no end in sight. That's why I don't get excited when I see stories that Siri may get better in the future. What's the alternative?

    For me what I'd like far, far more than more functionality is a more reliable voice recognition & dictation engine—especially for English (Ireland) accents. My accent isn't that strong and it has trouble with understanding me often. And since Ireland Siri option was released in October of last year I've noticed perceisly 0% improvement for me over me using British Siri. And my accent is most certainly not British. So that was a huge disappointment for me given that I awaited it since I first got wind of it from WWDC.
    edited February 2017 argonaut
  • Reply 11 of 13
    irelandireland Posts: 17,299member
    MacPro said:
    I agree with the two posts above.  I'd love to see more functionality unleashed both in iOS and macOS.
    However, I'm very confused as to why only some of Siri's functions work on my Mac. On my Mac if I ask Siri to turn on some lights, for instance, I get a response saying HomeKit isn't supported on the Mac. So, it's smart enough to realize what I'm asking but can't follow through. Weird. 
    It's more than weird. It's annoying.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Would be an unexpected surprise if Siri suddenly leapfrogged both Amazon and Google in terms of usability.

    It's gonna happen. VocalIQ's technology is ridiculous. It's ℅90 accurate compared to the wannabe Siri's ℅20 and can understand phrases as complicated as "Show me kid friendly Chinese restaurants that offer Wifi". 
    Expect it to be more accurate by the time it's released. 
  • Reply 13 of 13
    irelandireland Posts: 17,299member
    cali said:
    Would be an unexpected surprise if Siri suddenly leapfrogged both Amazon and Google in terms of usability.

    It's gonna happen. VocalIQ's technology is ridiculous. It's ℅90 accurate compared to the wannabe Siri's ℅20 and can understand phrases as complicated as "Show me kid friendly Chinese restaurants that offer Wifi". 
    Expect it to be more accurate by the time it's released. 
    Expect nothing. When's it coming? These things always disappoint me when they are actually released.
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