Apple isn’t resting on its laurels when it comes to Siri development, and has just picked up a company called VocalIQ. The U.K.-based startup deals in technology to help computers recognize human speech and express themselves more naturally at the same time — in other words, expect Siri to become even more lifelike in the near future.
Apple hasn’t said much besides confirming that the deal has gone through, but it’s not difficult to see how this kind of AI software could improve the digital assistant app built into iOS. Siri itself started out as an independent app which Apple purchased in April 2010, and recently gained some extra proactive features and in-app capabilities with iOS 9.
There’s another area where VocalIQ’s technology might be used: The mythical Apple Car. If you’re relying on Siri to direct you to your destination — or even drive you there all by itself — then you want a voice interface that’s as accurate and as natural-sounding as possible. What VocalIQ is working on is essentially like the technology seen in the smart assistants in movies like Her and Iron Man.
As Daring Fireball notes, the VocalIQ team hasn’t always been complimentary about Siri in the past. “All major technology companies are pouring billions into the building up of [voice assistant] services,” reads a blog post from March. “Some ended being used only as toys, like Siri. The rest, forgotten. Unsurprisingly.”
With Google Now and Cortana also adding new features on a regular basis, the race to build the best virtual assistant app is well and truly on. In fact, these apps (and the tricks they bring with them) are slowly becoming the most important part of their respective mobile operating systems. Apple’s latest acquisition should help it keep up with its rivals, though it may take until iOS 10 before consumers see the results.