Rumor Mill: Apple building Siri speech tech to end reliance on Nuance
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is building speech recognition services to power its Siri virtual assistant for iOS, a move to end the company's dependence on voice and natural language technologies provider Nuance Communications, Xconomy reports.
Sources said Apple has set up shop near Nuance's Boston-area headquarters, assembling a team of voice technology specialists led by former executives at VoiceSignal Technologies, which Nuance acquired for $293 million in 2007. The team includes onetime Nuance employee Gunnar Evermann, who joined Apple in 2011 and whose LinkedIn profile calls him "manager, Siri Speech," as well as Larry Gillick whose title is "Chief Speech Scientist, Siri" and Don McAllaster, another ex-Nuance employee whose Apple title is simply "Senior Research Scientist."
Details on Apple's Boston office, first reported by The Boston Globe in January, are scarce. "They won't tell us what they're doing," Jim Glass, who heads MIT's Spoken Language Systems Group, told Xconomy. "We can only guess." Neither Apple nor Nuance responded to requests for comment.
Apple has rarely relied on third-party companies for core software and services across its iOS and Mac platforms. Nuance's contributions to Siri are one notable exception: The company only confirmed its role as a Siri partner this spring. Apple also has a history of severing ties with partners after developing competing technologies in-house--e.g., last year the company ended its longtime reliance on Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps, rolling out its rival Apple Maps platform.
Siri, introduced in late 2011 in tandem with the iPhone 4S, enables users to employ natural spoken language to access and perform device tasks like mobile search, messaging and contacts. Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, has described Siri as an "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking."
Apple's iOS 7 update, expected this fall, will bring a new female Siri voice and a male voice option, as well as integration with Twitter, Wikipedia and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing search engine.
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