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

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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

Nuance announces Dragon Dictate 4, with pre-recorded transcription features and Gmail integration

Nuance has just announced the next major version of its Mac dictation software, Dragon Dictate 4. The new version improves recognition accuracy as well as several new features, including the ability to machine transcribe from a pre-recorded audio file. You no longer have to be recording a voice live to get transcription.

Screenshot 2014-03-04 08.07.43We’ve had a quick play with the software and the accuracy is almost scary good compared to older versions of the software. Speaking in a normal voice gives you almost 100% accuracy and even mumbling seems to work. While Mavericks uses the same Nuance speech engine, Dictate 4 has a better interface for transcription and tons of extra features as outlined in the videos above and below.

Dragon Dictate software has also been updated for modern system architectures — it is a 64-bit app now.  This results in better performance and better memory management over its predecessors. The company says it has drastically reduced latency when interpreting speech.

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Jailbreak tweak augments Siri with Google Voice Search (Video)

The Google Now-like voice recognition features introduced to the Google Search for iOS app last month have been getting a lot of attention. Maps might not be the only area Apple cannot compete with Google. As highlighted in a video comparison we posted earlier this week, Google’s voice search feature has Siri beat. And many users are taking note. Today, AppAdvice pointed us to a new Jailbreak tweak called “NowNow” that allows you to call up Google voice search (from within the Google Search iOS app) by holding down the Home button—just like Siri. It appears you can also select alternate methods to invoke the feature, so you should be able to continue to use both if want. The tweak is available via the BigBoss repository now for free.

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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

Here’s how you can try out Windows Phone on your iPhone

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Curious to see how Windows Phone feels, but don’t have a device around to do so? Us neither. But Microsoft has just released a new HTML 5 website that allows iPhone and Android users to get a taste of the Windows Phone 7 (Mango 7.5) operating system. The trial requires no downloads or registration, and you can try it out by just going to the webpage http://aka.ms/wpdemo on your mobile device.

While it doesn’t use any of the data on your phone like your contacts, the demo does give you a pretty comprehensive look at all of Windows Phone’s features. Microsoft uses a blue dot to guide you around the operating system, and obviously some features like voice recognition just don’t work in the browser. Drat, that’s something we really wanted to try.

Will this draw users over to the Windows Phone platform? Probably not, but it’s always cool to see what the competition is up to.

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