There are fewer options for speech recognition these days, and now there are even fewer with Nuance announcing they acquired Vlingo for an undisclosed figure. Following multiple lawsuits related to patent infringement, the two companies apparently came to what CEO of Vlingo Dave Grannan called “a good outcome.” Grannan elaborated in a prepared statement (via AllThingsD):
Vlingo and Nuance have long shared a similar vision for the power and global proliferation of mobile voice and language understanding. As a result of our complementary research and development efforts, our companies are stronger together than alone. Our combined resources afford us the opportunity to better compete, and offer a powerful proposition to customers, partners and developers.
Vlingo is notably used in various voice-controlled Android apps, and it is viewed as competitors to Apple’s Siri built into the iPhone 4S. However, Siri, also used it prior to it being used by Apple, before switching to Nuance…
In an interview with 9to5Mac, Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky said Vlingo was originally used as the speech recognition component of Siri before switching to Nuance. He noted: “Theoretically, if a better speech recognition comes along (or Apple buys one), they could likely replace Nuance without too much trouble. ” The full quote is below.
9to5Mac: How important is Nuance speech recognition to the Siri technology?
Norm: It is a lot less important than you’d probably think. When we first built Siri, we use Vlingo for speech recognition and as such, at the time of purchase the speech recognition component is modular. Theoretically, if a better speech recognition comes along (or Apple buys one), they could likely replace Nuance without too much trouble. That being said, Nuance has far and away the most IP in speech synthesis technologies in the industry. We should know, SRI launched Nuance as one of our incubated companies in 1995 and it IPO’d in 2000.
Mike Thompson, head of Nuance mobile unit, seems to attribute the decision largely to Apple’s Nuance-powered Siri:
Inspired by the introduction of services such as Apple’s Siri and our own Dragon Go!, virtually every mobile and consumer electronics company on the planet is looking for ways to integrate natural, conversational voice interactions into their mobile products, applications, and services,