Apple acquires UK-based VocalIQ to make Siri more human

Apple has made another acquisition, this time in the sphere of voice recognition, with the firm buying up UK-based outfit VocalIQ.

According to a report in Business Weekly, VocalIQ cost in the region of $50 million to $100 million (£33 million to £66 million), and will bolster Apple's Siri voice assistant which the company is using across many of its platforms – from smartphones through set-top boxes to in-car tech (CarPlay).

VocalIQ is described as a speech tech AI specialist, and the Cambridge-based company's mission is to develop routines which allow for the user to have a more natural conversation with their device, as opposed to simply issuing commands.

The idea is to develop a more intuitive experience using what the firm calls the world’s first self-learning dialogue API – in other words, with every exchange between user and software, the dialogue engine learns and gets smarter for the next time.

As VocalIQ puts it: “Previous conversations are central to its [the smart dialogue engine] learning process – allowing the system to better understand future requests and in turn, react more intelligently.”

It’s also capable of tricks such as being able to interpret any noise in the context of the dialogue that’s happening, i.e. being able to ignore louder background noises.

Neither company has said anything about the acquisition yet.

Hermann Hauser, a director of VocalIQ (and co-founder of Acorn), described the outfit as “a world leading team in dialogue management [with] technology which will improve man machine interactions substantially”.

The company has been working on developing the current platform since 2011, although the foundations of the tech go back to research which began over a decade ago.

A more intuitive Siri experience certainly wouldn’t go amiss.