In a likely attempt to bolster the versatility and effectiveness of its own personal assistant software, Siri, Apple recently acquired the U.K. based natural voice technology firm Vocal IQ. First confirmed by a report in The Financial Times, the brokered deal between Apple and VocalIQ lacked the presence of any specifics — such as price or potential uses — however Vocal IQ’s technology could ultimately be applied in a number of different ways, for example, in automotive focused projects where it currently holds a dominant role.
Stemming from its roots at the University of Cambridge Dialogue Systems Group, the Vocal IQ software allows the end user to communicate with their device using their natural voice, as opposed to having to remember a specific list in-built of commands. At this time, it’s expected that the Vocal IQ team will remain in Cambridge.
In a blog post earlier this year, Vocal IQ denounced Siri as being “just a toy,” however they claimed that it was still likely among the best voice assistant platforms on the market.
“The consumer demand for a self-learning, multi-domain conversational voice system where consumers can freely talk about movies, restaurants, music, hotel bookings and the meaning of life, is huge and undeniable,” the post reads. “The first one to meet that demand will rule the smartphone and wearables market for the next decade or longer.”
Primarily in light of VocalIQ’s large-scale involvement with the automotive industry, the report of an acquisition is likely to fuel speculation about the prospects of a fully connected Apple vehicle, which, as it stands, have been circulating for quite some time. Rumors have persisted throughout the year suggesting that an “Apple Car” is currently being developed under the codename “Project Titan.” It is largely believed that this will be Cupertino’s foray into the new product category.
As recent sightings and speculation have suggested, Apple is said to be working on its new project at a discreet, top secret facility in Sunnyvale, California, which is known only by its code-name “SG5.” Evidence uncovered by our friends at Apple Insider earlier this year noted that a company under the shell name “SixtyEight Research” might be a cover to help Apple keep their operations at the Sunnyvale garage under the radar.
Worth mentioning is that VocalIQ has a wealth of experience in regards to utilizing machine learning software to create conversational virtual assistants, specifically for use in the automotive industry. Apple has its own iPhone-connected CarPlay feature, as well, which makes using iPhone-based services like Messages and Maps safer through the use of on-screen controls, and CarPlay could greatly improve with some newly learned skills for Siri.
The Financial Times article also notes that VocalIQ has previous experience using in-car applications under the terms of its partnership with General Motors. And therefore, theoretically speaking, Apple could integrate the VocalIQ team into Siri, which, in and of itself, was an acquisition prior to launching alongside the iPhone 4s in 2011.