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Apple buys UK speech and virtual assistant start up VocalIQ

Apple has reportedly purchased a UK-based AI company, which could boost its efforts to improve Siri’s natural conversation skills as well as its automotive ambitions

Cupertino has, according to the Financial Times‘ sources, acquired VocalIQ, a company which specialises in speech processing and machine learning technology.

The company specialises in enabling “real conversation” between humans, devices and the internet of things.

In Apple’s case this could be used to boost Siri, but also to power an in-car assistant within its rumoured electric or self-driving car plans. VocalIQ is also interested in wearable technology, which may come into play with the next-gen Apple Watches.

What we need is framework for a real dialog. A conversation. Where, it’s not just us humans doing the talking, but the machines (things) talk to us. If and when they have something important to say. And they will. Lots,” the firm wrote in February.

So, in the case of a car, VocalIQ could help the vehicle communicate potential problems or performance issues with the driver, while warning them of hazards. It could also inform then when they’re breaking the speed limit, or whether a gas-station is up ahead.

See also: Apple Car: The biggest challenges Apple faces

Interestingly, the FT points out a in a previous blog post Vocal IQ had claimed Siri to be a “toy” which had fallen “well short of consumer expectations.”

Now the team will have a chance to make a difference.

In the typical statement, Apple wrote: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

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