According to a new report, Apple quietly acquired speech recognition company Novauris at some point last year–and they’ve put the team behind the company to work on Siri, the Cupertino corporation’s virtual assistant. Pieces of the company’s many software innovations include local voice recognition, requiring no internet connection to perform more intricate tasks with voice commands.
Novauris came out of a U.K.-based research subsidiary of Dragon Systems, a company known as one of the biggest pioneers in voice recognition technology. Novauris officially began work in 2002, and its members including Yoon Kim, Melvyn Hunt, and John Bridle have background at Dragon, Nortel, and notably SRI, a company which helped get Apple’s Siri off the ground. Founder Jim Baker essentially started Novauris, funding its initial development work, but was eventually bought out by Bridle and Hunt with help from private investors in 2004.
While the Novauris website doesn’t make any note of the company being a part of Apple, co-founder Melvyn Hunt answered the phone with “Apple.” upon being called at their U.K. office, and confirmed to TechCrunch that the team is now apart of the Cupertino iPhone maker’s empire. Hunt also confirmed that “Novauris” is no longer an active entity.
Before being acquired by Apple, Novauris was working on its own large-vocabulary speech recognition technology, which they patented in many countries including the United States. Their products already supported iOS “via its Embedded ASR (NovaSearch Compact) and Server ASR (NovaSearch Server) technologies.” NovaSearch compact is for access to on-device information, while NovaSearch Server is for server-based applications.
The company’s products are compatible with a wide variety of languages, and have been used on products from a wide variety of OEMs and carriers including Verizon Wireless, Samsung, SingTel, Panasonic, Alpine, and BMW. Their software applied on a London guide called “Speak&Go London” was demoed by The Wall Street Journal, where the publication noted how quickly the recognition worked due to it being performed locally on the device. The team also worked with Panasonic on a project called “NovaLight” and worked with Existor on a Siri-like product for all devices.
This acquisistion could mean a lot of exciting new innovations for Apple’s voice recognition platform. This is purely speculation, but it would make sense for Apple to move toward expanding iOS fast on-device voice control of applications beyond the currently-available Voice Control. Maybe Novauris’ software will make Siri more powerful, negating the need for Voice Control to exist at all.
Would you like Siri to be more powerful?