Sometimes important acquisitions by Apple make big news; other times, months by go by before anyone even knows about it. (It’s a pity it seemingly can’t achieve that same secrecy with the iPhone anymore.) As TechCrunch reports, it appears that the iPhone maker acquired staff from Novauris Technologies last year to assist in improving Siri, thus all but confirming Apple also acquired the company at the same time.
Accumulated evidence highly suggests this is the case. The LinkedIn page for Yoon Kim, the CEO of Novauris, now lists him as a manager for “Siri at Apple.” TechCrunch also contacted Novauris’ operations in the U.K. and learned that from an unnamed employee that, yes, the company is now under Apple’s wing.
Novauris boasts an uncommonly talented staff, as it was founded by the creators of the speech recognition pioneer Dragon Systems (best known as the creators of Dragon NaturallySpeaking). In an interesting twist, Apple uses some of the technology produced by Nuance, Dragon’s current parent company, to assist with Siri’s speech recognition.
Novauris’ specialization is, shall we say, a little more nuanced. It focuses on using speech recognition to access information both on local devices and on external servers — exactly, in other words, the purpose for using Siri on the iPhone. The company’s website also states that it’s able to handle multiple voice requests at once, partly by focusing on syllables and complete phrases.
In the words of Novauris’ website, “NovaSearch doesn’t carry out recognition at the word or sequence-of-words level, but rather identifies complete phrases from start to finish by matching them against a potentially huge inventory of possible utterances. This enables it to assemble information about what has been spoken over utterances of virtually any length and take near-optimal decisions.”
Apple made a ton of other acquisitions last year, including the public transit navigator HopStop, the digital mapping companies BroadMap and Locationary, and the indoor GPS outit called WifiSLAM. The iPhone 6 is alleged to contain many significant improvements for iOS 7 in general, and thus it’ll be interesting to see how fruitful these acquisitions were after the coming launch.
Update: Apple sent a confirmation (of sorts) to TechCrunch, merely passing along its usual line about how “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
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