Nuance acquires speech recognition competitor Vlingo, Apple’s speech engine choices dwindle

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? Read more

Microsoft exec: Siri is nothing special, we’ve had it for over a year

Microsoft and Apple tackled touch interfaces in diametrically opposing ways. As Apple set out to bring multitouch on mobile devices to the masses with the 2007 release of the original iPhone, Microsoft created a blown up version with its Surface multitouch tabletop (which can now be yours for a cool $8,400, shipping in early 2012).

Microsoft also progressed natural user interfaces with the Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360 console while Apple charted its way into the future with an artificial intelligence-driven personal assistant dubbed Siri.

So, when Microsoft’s chief strategy and research officer Craig Mundie sat down with Forbes’ Eric Savitz to talk the company’s planned expansion of the new user interface, he did what Microsoft executives typically do when challenged with a cool tech developed outside the Windows maker’s labs: He stuck his foot in his mouth over Apple’s groundbreaking digital secretary exclusive to the iPhone 4S.

In the above clip, he said (mark 1:45):

People are infatuated with Apple announcing it. It’s good marketing, but at least as the technological capability you could argue that Microsoft has had a similar capability in Windows Phones for more than a year, since Windows Phone 7 was introduced.

Windows Phones, seriously? Mundie couldn’t acknowledge Siri as an ace up Apple’s sleeve and barely accepted that Microsoft could learn a lesson or two about “productizing” technology. He then went on to describe how their version of Siri works on Windows Phones:
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Nuance speech recognition comes to Mac App Store with Dragon Express

Nuance just dropped a new Dragon dictation product in the Mac App Store called Dragon Express ($49 introductory price), a scaled-back, less expensive version of their Dragon Dictate software. This new version will reside in Lion’s menubar, allowing you to activate the dictate window with a keyboard shortcut or mouse click, and begin converting your speech to text immediately. From there you’ll be able to quickly email it, run a web search with the text, copy it, or share to the usual social networking suspects.

“Dragon Express is a great app for those who are new to speech recognition or who are looking for an easy-to-use dictation tool that allows them to use their voice instead of typing,” said Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager, Dragon, Nuance. “For those looking for a more full-featured speech recognition program, we recommend Dragon Dictate, which provides the full capabilities of advanced speech recognition technology.”

Nuance speech recognition technology is currently baked into Apple’s Siri voice-controlled assistant, although Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky told 9to5Mac in a recent interview it could likely be replaced if “better speech recognition comes along”. If you’re wondering how Dragon Express stacks up against their full-fledged dictate software, Nuance posted the chart below comparing the feature sets of the two apps:

 (via MacStories) comparing features of Express and Dictate

Full press release after the break (via MarketWatch).
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Siri demos are making the rounds. Is this going to ‘Change the world’?

When we interviewed Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky in the week before the Siri announcement, he said that Apple’s foray into ‘mainstreaming the Virtual Personal Assistant’ would be the next step in human interfaces. Keyboard, Mouse, Touch Screen, and now Voice. A World-Changing event.

Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event. I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift.

With some customers getting their hands on their iPhone 4S early, there are some early Siri walkthroughs hitting the net, below:

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Co-Founder of Siri: Assistant launch is a “World-Changing Event” (Interview)

On Tuesday, Apple will change the way humans interact with electronic devices. All over again.

Perhaps the biggest announcement at Apple’s iPhone event on Tuesday will be Assistant, Apple’s evolution of the Siri Personal Assistant Software. Siri, you’ll remember, is the company Apple picked up for a rumored $200 million in April of last year for, in Steve Jobs’ words, its “Artificial Intelligence”, not search or speech recognition.

During Siri’s brief two months on its own, it described itself as a ‘VPA’:

Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today’s paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual’s preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.

Apple has long wanted to bring an Artificial Intelligence-based Personal Assistant to the masses. In the late 80′s, Apple made the Knowledge Navigator series of videos (example below) to showcase this ambition.

In the video, the professor mentions that someone wrote an article 5 years ago trashing Jill’s research (watch from 1:25 min onwards, at 1:50 min he mentions more details) – The computer says the doctor’s name and says his article in 2006 – which means the professor is in 2011. Ha! Thanks PBHK!

The world has come a long way since then, but as you’ll see on Tuesday, Apple had remarkable foresight way back in 1987.

We had the chance to speak to Siri’s co-founder and board member, Norman Winarsky…

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