Apple takes a big step toward improving Siri

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One area where Apple really needs some help is with Siri. The digital assistant pales next to Google Assistant often times coming up with a great answer, but for a different question. In many situations, Siri refers the user to a web page instead of giving a direct answer. In some cases, Siri just might not understand what you are asking her to do. But an acquisition that Apple made today might help solve this problem.

We could see an improvement in Siri starting with 2021’s iPhone 13 series

Apple, as is its wont, reportedly purchased a company under the radar called Voysis. Located in Dublin, Ireland, the outfit offers a platform that allows a digital assistant to better understand the human language. According to Bloomberg, the assistants that Voysis usually works with are found embedded inside online shopping apps. The firm’s now-removed website says that the company’s technology makes it easier for these shopping apps to quickly respond to such inquiries as “I need a new LED TV” and “My budget is $1,000.” Using voice search can help a consumer obtain an answer to a question three times faster than by typing it. The company’s AI-based technology is bought by shopping apps and embedded into these apps’ own voice assistants.

Apple’s MO is to purchase smaller companies with specific technology that it can use on the iPhone or another device within the next year. For example, in July 2012 Apple purchased biometrics firm AuthenTec for $356 million. A year later, Apple debuted its Touch ID fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s. In April 2010, Apple bought a company called Siri International; 18-months later the Siri virtual voice assistant debuted on the iPhone 4s. Earlier this week, Apple purchased localized weather app Dark Sky. and will shut down the latter’s Android app on July 1st. In case it ever comes up in a trivia contest, the largest acquisition Apple ever initiated was the 2014 purchase of Beats Audio for $3 billion. Despite the price, the deal still followed Apple’s typical game plan as the purchase led to the launch of Apple Music in October 2015.

Voysis’ technology works with Wavenets, a system that uses AI to deliver more human-like computer speech. It was first developed in 2016 by DeepMind, a company that Google had purchased two years before because of its AI. capabilities Even though Google paid $500 million for the firm, it runs independently. Peter Cahill, the co-founder of Voysis, said a couple of years ago that once the AI is trained to “think” for itself, the software can be reduced to a size of just 25MB of memory (about the same size of four Apple Music songs) so that it can be used on a smartphone even when the handset is not connected to the internet.

Besides helping Siri understand users better, the technology could be used by Apple to help other apps that work with Siri also understand what information people are trying to obtain. Apple did not confirm the transaction, and thus wouldn’t comment on the price of an acquisition it won’t confirm. As usual, the company left the usual blurry statement: “[Apple] buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” But if the past is prologue, we should see some major improvements to Siri starting with the 2021 iPhone 13 family. As we said, back in February, Apple has a “siri-ous” problem and iOS users are hopeful that this acquisition marks the beginning of a huge, positive change for Apple’s digital assistant.

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