Apple has recently bought UK-based Vocal IQ, in an effort to make personal assistant Siri more natural and effective. Representatives of the tech giant have confirmed the deal, without revealing any financial aspects related to the acquisition.
The artificial intelligence start-up, whose headquarters are in Cambridge, concentrates on improving speech recognition, in order to allow computers to communicate more fluently and accurately with humans.
Its current software has been in the making for more than 10 years, at the Spoken Dialogue Systems Group, of the University of Cambridge. As its developers have proclaimed, it represents “the world’s first self-learning dialogue API”(application program interface).
Not only does the software recognize when the user speaks, but it can also interpret the words accurately. Moreover, it records all the conversations, in order to analyze them and tweak its shortcomings.
Basically, the program constantly teaches itself new concepts, as it learns them from its user, and corrects itself when it discovers it has committed an error.
By building on prior knowledge, the application can process requests much more accurately and respond intelligently to them. The interface is capable not just of following simple directives, but it can also understand a more complex train of thought and provide a response that’s both natural and informative.
Machine learning technology enables “real conversation between human and the internet of things”, according to Vocal IQ representatives. This type of program can be installed on hardware such as mobile phones in order to facilitate superior communication between users and their gadgets.
Previously, the company had focused on the automobile industry, by partnering up with General Motors. The purpose was to design a voice-operated system so that vehicles could intelligently respond to commands from their drivers, such as the request to adjust the stereo or to start the windshield wipers.
Vocal IQ used to appear dismissive of AI personal assistants, claiming that they have been completely disappointing so far, since they can only perform a limited number of tasks, and their execution is seldom accurate.
Moreover, when such applications encounter difficulties, instead of clarifying the meaning behind the command they proceed by simply implementing their own faulty interpretation of the request.
Now however, it appears the startup’s innovative technology will be used in order to turn these “mere toys” into intelligent and adaptable machines.
Incorporating this software into Apple’s Siri might help it gain an edge over other competitors, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana. The personal assistant already receives a billion commands per week, so it could greatly benefit from Vocal IQ’s self-learning capabilities.
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