Why is Apple hiring Nuance engineers? Apparently to replace Siri’s Nuance-powered backend

Nuance, the company that originally created the backend for the Siri mobile app that would later become the built-in virtual assistant in the iPhone 4S, has powered the speech recognition for the service ever since it launched. However, a new report suggests Apple may be looking to replace the company’s technology with a newer, faster system that could provide more accurate results.

A new Wired report cites several recent Siri-related Apple hires as evidence that the company is working on something big for the system’s next update. This isn’t really a new idea: rumors have been swirling since 2011 that Apple was investigating its own speech-to-text solution. That same year, Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky (not to be confused with current Siri Speech Manager David Winarsky) told 9to5Mac:

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Review: Dragon Dictate 4.0 for Mac – The best speech recognition app gets even better

Dragon-Dictate-4-01

Using our voice to control computers has never really taken off. For many of us, using voice recognition technology wasn’t even a consideration until features like dictation and Siri arrived on our iPhones and iPads. There’s good reason too: the voice recognition features built into our devices have always had the reputation of being half-baked. They simply aren’t accurate and consistent enough to replace our tried and trusted mouse and keyboard or touchscreen. While half decent dictation features come with every Mac (and are powered by Nuance’s technology), the voice recognition features you get with latest version of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for Mac go well beyond simply dictating speech to text.  Read more

Swype VP confirms talks with Apple on revolutionary keyboard technology

Swype-keyboard-iOS-nuanceWe reported earlier this week over on our sister site 9to5Google that the extremely popular Swype keyboard was now available for Android users on Google Play. Unfortunately its arrival came after the implementation of the similar Gesture Typing feature that Google introduced in Jelly Bean. While we know Swype owner Nuance has a pretty tight relationship with Apple through its voice recognition technology being used in Siri (although Siri’s co-founder told us Apple could “likely replace Nuance without too much trouble”), a Swype exec has now confirmed the company has had talks with Apple over its revolutionary keyboard tech.

iFans points us to a Reddit AMA with Swype Vice President Aaron Sheedy where the executive confirms discussions with Apple have taken place: Read more

Nuance launches ‘Voice Ads’ platform to bring a Siri-like experience to mobile advertising

If Nuance gets its way with the just announced ‘Voice Ads’ mobile advertising platform, soon every mobile ad could include Siri-like functionality that lets you communicate with and ask questions about the product being advertised.

Nuance, the company behind the voice recognition module now used in Apple’s Siri, today announced a new project to bring its voice recognition technology to the mobile advertising world. The basic concept of the new platform, which Nuance made available through an SDK for advertising companies, is to bring a two-way, interactive conversation to mobile ads. As highlighted by Nuance in the video above, ads that implement the Voice Ads platform will allow users to engage in a Siri-like conversation with an advertisement:

Nuance Voice Ads gives mobile advertisers and creative agencies an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of the four-inch mobile device screen and create a conversation with consumers through the power of voice recognition. Voice Ads finally creates an opportunity for brands to deepen the relationship with their consumers, with targeted interactive ads that deeply engage their core audience – much in the way that the world’s most popular mobile personal assistants have deepened consumers’ relationship with their mobile phones.

In the demo above, Nuance shows an advertisement for a fictional deodorant brand that uses a magic 8-ball theme to answer any question that users might have. The ad of course ends in a pitch for the product in question, as you might expect. Other ads could allow users to ask specific questions about a product’s release date or specs…
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Apple in Shanghai court over Siri speech recognition patent infringement claims

Siri promo video (text message reply 001)AFP reported Apple is in court in Shanghai, China again today, but this time it’s over a lawsuit alleging the company copied components of Siri’s speech recognition software. According to the report, Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology Co. claimed in pretrial proceedings that Apple infringed its patent related to voice recognition technology via Siri. While the suit notes that development of Siri began in 2007, there is no mention of Nuance. Apple currently partners Nuance with to implement the speech recognition component in Siri, and it is also a market leader that presumably has its own arsenal of speech recognition related patents.

Zhizhen says it patented its “Xiao i Robot” software in 2004, while Apple’s Siri, which made its debut with the release of the iPhone 4S in 2011, was first developed in 2007.

“The company will ask Apple to stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple’s infringement is confirmed,” Si Weijiang, a lawyer representing Zhizhen, told AFP.

“We don’t exclude the possibility of demanding compensation in the future,” he added.

The company is behind Siri-like software called ‘Xiao i Robot’ that it claimed was first developed before Siri in 2004. The technology is apparently available on some smart TVs and enterprise applications, but it doesn’t appear to be available as a consumer-facing app for smartphones or tablets. The video below appeared online when the company originally filed suit against Apple last year, and it shows the Xiao i Robot software running on a Lenovo smartphone:

Apps & updates: iTranslate Voice HD, Twittelator Neue, Total Recall, and more

Today’s noteworthy apps and updates list kicks off with the recently released iPad version of iTranslate Voice. As always, we will update the list throughout the day as more apps hit the store…

iTranslate Voice HD: iTranslate Voice is a great new iPad app, as it is one of the most unique pieces of word translation software on the market. Instead of typing words into an app, you talk in your language, and then the app will respond in the language of your choice. The entire thing is powered by Nuance—the same company that powers Apple’s Dictation on the iPhone 4S, new iPad, and Mountain Lion computers. So you know it is reliable. We have used the app for a while, and it is super helpful and easy to use. For those who are not a fan of voice, text-based translations are available. Thirty-one languages work in the app in addition to word defining. Sharing is also present. We highly recommend this iPad app. An iPhone version has also been available for some time, and it recently received a big update with new gestures and languages.

Twittelator Neue version 2.1:The popular iPhone twitter client Twittelator Neue and Twittelator Free were both updated today with the following new features and improvements:

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