Apple's Siri set a new bar for voice control, says Nuance
Nuance, the voice interaction company says that there are now more than two billion 'voice interactions' from mobile phones every year.
Peter Mahoney, Nuance’s Chief Marketing Officer, said that Apple was popularising voice technology just as they had popularised digital music or the computer mouse. He said voice commands were growing in popularity as more processing power became available, and claimed that adoption has now “reached the elbow in the curve”.
He admitted that there was a long way to go before voice technology achieved “full Star Trek-ness”, but he said that Apple’s Siri voice assistant was “driving a real, unprecedented renaissance in interest around voice”.
Mr Mahoney told the Telegraph that the two billion annual “voice transactions” did not include Siri, for which Nuance also provides technology, but declined to say how many devices were generating that volume of voice commands and speech recognition.
Voice technology, such as Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S-Voice and the 70 or so ‘personal assistant’ apps currently available allow users to control their phones or search the web simply by speaking to them. Although ‘voice dialling’ has been included on mobile phones for approximately a decade, adoption has previously been low because services routinely failed to accurately identify what users were asking for.
“As soon as Siri got out there, every consumer manufacturer says ‘I want one of those’ – a new bar has been set,” claimed Mr Mahoney. Samsung’s new S3 mobile phone will include a Siri-like voice assistant called S-Voice, which has been developed by Vlingo, a company which Nuance is in the process of acquiring. Nuance has also done a separate deal to provide Samsung with voice services for its new televisions. Microsoft's Kinect video games console is also positioning itself as a modern entertainment centre, controlled by both gesture and voice.
Although 6 billion mobile devices use Nuance technology, this includes the predictive text keyboard, T9, as well as other programmes such as the Swype keyboard that allows users to enter words without tapping each letter individually.
Nuance recently acquired Spinvox, a company that converted voicemails into text messages, but became mired in controversy after it was revealed that much of the work was being done by human beings rather than computers. Nuance now offers a similar service, which is built on improved algorithms and a much smaller amount of human correction. The Spinvox debacle, however, demonstrated that many consumers were enthusiastic about some uses of speech recognition.
Future versions of voice recognition will move beyond Siri’s current version, which offers navigation, web search and the ability to write emails or set reminders. Mr Mahoney said upcoming developments in personal assistants would feature on tablets and would be more personalised, allowing users to ask questions such as “Is my favourite movie on tonight?”.
Google is also working on voice recognition systems, and claims widespread adoption for its own equivalent services, as well as for translation software that allows people to converse in two languages at once.