Apple’s purchase of Novauris Technologies, a British firm specializing in Voice Recognition Technology (VRT), may be a union that comes too late. Samsung, Google and Motorola have already surpassed the technology first introduced on mobile devices through Siri. However, Apple may still have the last laugh, or bite.
VRT has been around for some time. The early implementation of this technology took place on automated voice activated menu on the phone that guided the user to the appropriate department. Improvements thereupon have allowed businesses to accommodate most consumers’ requests, without ever having to speak to a real person. Nowadays, complex transactions happen over the phone between the consumer and the machine.
When Siri, Apple’s landmark voice activated helper, was introduced on iPhone 4S in 2011, it was considered a technological marvel by many, despite its monotone voice, and somewhat unnatural feel. It had trouble understanding unusual accents, and frequently provided incorrect or unrelated answers. The technology was still in its infancy, and it had more of a novelty effect than real use for many.
The advancements in technology since have allowed Apple’s competitors to surpass Siri, and offer a far greater experience with VRT. Google Now, for example, can predict the user’s requests by employing predictive analytics from previous searches. Microsoft is taking the concept even further. Cortana, Siri’s counterpart on Windows Phone 8.1, can practically take on the responsibilities of a personal assistant by learning the habits and interests of the user, and organizing the daily activities. Cortana may be called a “smart assistant” because it can customize the answers, and unlike Siri, it gives only the best option. For example, a search for Indian restaurant in Denver will show only the best-rated Indian restaurant, thus saving the user further hassle of deciding which one to choose. Beyond the technology, Cortana has a humorous side as well. Just ask her who her father is.
To regain its top spot among technology leaders, the Novauris acquisition, though it may be too late by Apple’s standards, is still a strategic union for the company. The software is server-based and therefore, is able to accommodate multiple requests simultaneously, and is no longer limited to simple words or phrases. It integrates linguistic grammar with search engine to provide optimal voice recognition for the entire sentence. An additional feature of this technology is that in case of computational overload, it can distribute voice access requests over multi-computer systems. This ability to operate in embedded and server space environment, and provide active fail-over mechanism could be the differentiations Apple needs to get back in the game. The Novauris technology is already proven in the marketplace because its components have been well received in Dragon Speech Recognition software. Therefore, further enhancements to the software can bypass the current benchmark in VRT.
Though Apple and Novauris union seems a bit too late, the new VRT acquisition may yet be a winning strategy. To differentiate itself from tough competition, it may be doing something that is generally not associated with their platforms. Functionality with third-party services would set Siri apart from its competition. However, this is assuming Siri can develop even more smarts, and perhaps a better sense of humor.
Opinion by Amit Singh