Apple is rumoured to have bought British artificial intelligence (AI) firm VocalIQ in a move to make the Siri virtual assistant sound more human.Business Weekly reported that Apple acquired VocalIQ for a sum ranging between $50m and $100m.
VocalIQ specialises in creating a smart dialogue engine that uses a self-learning dialogue API so that software developers can add the ability for apps to use real, natural language based dialogue to answer human queries.
Machine learning capabilities at the core of the dialogue engine enable VocalIQ-powered apps to get smarter over time and answer queries faster and more accurately after each interaction.
VocalIQ claimed that its technology is an important part of enabling people to interact with the Internet of Things, which it said is effectively an AI fuelled by a mass of connected smart machines.
Business Weekly‘s sources claimed that Apple has taken space at 90 Hills Road in Cambridge and has outfitted an office for research and development.
“The Hills Road building appears to be half occupied but all the windows except for the top two storeys have been frosted over so no-one can see in or out. There is no signage,” said the source.
Apple and VocalIQ have not responded to V3‘s request for clarification or information about the acquisition.
However, Apple is generally tight lipped about acquisitions and the direction of products and software until one of its major events.
But it could be speculated that if such an acquisition or partnership with VocalIQ is underway, the results will be used to improve Siri. This is likely to include more natural language capabilities and the ability to answer conversational questions.
For example, a iPhone user could ask Siri to find a nice restaurant to take a partner to, rather than a more generic request such as ‘find a restaurant’.
VocalIQ’s technology could allow Siri to offer a more detailed and conversational answer, and not just a list of the nearest restaurants.