Apple May Introduce Next-Gen Natural Language API in its Amazon Echo Competitor

Last week we reported that Apple is said to be readying an Amazon Echo competitor that could be used in the home for features like listening to music, asking for information and getting news headlines.

The product is thought to include a camera with facial recognition capabilities and said to learn over time about its users, which interact with the device via an enhanced version of Siri. Meanwhile, Apple's virtual assistant is expected to be opened up to outside developers via a soon-to-be-released software development kit in order to facilitate this integration.

Now, Tech Insider claims that a natural language outfit bought by Apple late last year could play a central part in the company's plans for the upcoming smart home device.

vocaliq
In October 2015, Apple acquired VocalIQ, a UK-based startup that had spent the last 10 years researching natural language, belief tracking, decision making, and message generation, in an attempt to develop a next-generation natural language API.

Speculation at the time suggested Apple hoped to use the technology in its car project, codenamed "Titan".

However, according to a source familiar with VocalIQ's technology who spoke to Tech Insider, Apple is likely to introduce the API in its Echo competitor because of its ability to go beyond the "session-based" contextual responses touted by the likes of Viv. VocalIQ achieves this feat by retaining semantic context between conversations and permanently remembering the preferences of its users.

Apparently the company had been testing VocalIQ against Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, and found it to be vastly superior in dealing with complex natural language queries, such as asking for "a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and Wi-Fi that's kid-friendly".

[But] What if you change your mind an hour later? Simply saying something like "Find me a Mexican restaurant instead," will bring you new results, while still taking into account the other parameters like parking and WiFi you mentioned before. Hound, Siri, and any other assistant would make you start the search session over again. But Vocal IQ remembers. That's more human-like than anything available today.

VocalIQ can also filter out extraneous noise to figure out exactly what you're saying, thus making it more accurate than Siri is today. It's able to take in all the noise in an environment — the TV, kids shouting, whatever — and determine with a high probability which sound is actually the user's query. It can even learn to adapt to different accents over time to improve accuracy.

While the report's source doesn't claim to have any hard evidence that Apple plans to include the technology into its upcoming smart device, the possibility is an intriguing one. It also feeds into the expectation that Apple's decision to open up Siri to third-parties indicates that the virtual assistant will receive the necessary enhancements to prevent it from being overtaken by recent advances in competing products.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

JimmyHook Avatar
64 months ago
I've been saying this for a while now. Apple was first to the digital assistant arena for phones. When they purchased VocalIQ, Faceshift, etc it was easy to see that they would come back from behind and dominate other players. They've been working on it longer behind the scenes. This seems like it will be a legit assistant that you can converse with. Google Now will seem antiquated by comparison
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dilster3k Avatar
64 months ago
Siri in a box is literally the last thing I want, because I've barely used her in the past 5 years on my phone.

Can't wait till they ramble on about Siri in a box for about an hour straight during their keynote. #innovation
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kognito Avatar
64 months ago
Always on devices make me nervous. Who's listening?
No one... The "Hey Siri" type functionality doesn't send any data to Apple, that would be seriously inefficient and costly. All it does is listen for a specific sound, hence how you can train Hey Siri to your exact pronunciation. To prove it, put your device in airplane mode and try saying "Hey Siri", it'll still work.

Of course, not to say that these devices couldn't be used maliciously, but there's no greater risk with these "Always listening" devices than there is with your Mac, PC or any other smart device with a mic on it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
64 months ago

Apparently the company had been testing VocalIQ against Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, and found it to be vastly superior in dealing with complex natural language queries, such as asking for "a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and Wi-Fi that's kid-friendly".
"Kid-friendly" parking and Wi-Fi actually exist?! Oh, wait, it's sort of a dangling modifier. I get it now. I guess VocalIQ has already surpassed my language computation abilities.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
64 months ago
Always on devices make me nervous. Who's listening?
I don't know, but I try to ensure they hear plenty of inane conversation, atonal attempts to sing '80s songs, and rough sex. Hope they… enjoy.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ShadovvMoon Avatar
64 months ago


Are they also going to include this upgraded Siri on the new rMBP that they better announce?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
iphone12cameras

Kuo: 2022 iPhones to Feature 48-Megapixel Camera, 8K Video, and 6.1 and 6.7" Sizes With No 5.4" Mini Option

Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:45 pm PDT by
The upcoming 2022 iPhone lineup will feature two 6.1-inch devices and two 6.7-inch devices, with no mini-sized 5.4-inch iPhone, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Two of the iPhones will be high-end models and two of the iPhones will be lower-end models, similar to the current iPhone 12 lineup. Apple introduced the 5.4-inch...
macos catalina serial number

Apple Preparing Rollout of New Randomized Product Serial Numbers Ahead of 'Spring Loaded' Event

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:08 am PDT by
Apple is advising its authorized premium resellers and dealers to prepare for new products with 10 and 12 digital serial numbers, days ahead of when it's expected to reveal a slew of new products. MacRumors previously reported that Apple plans to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021. The company now seems to be preparing for that roll-out, telling...
apple event particularly innovative article

Gurman: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Won't Feature Anything 'Particularly Innovative'

Thursday April 15, 2021 1:30 am PDT by
Bloomberg's highly-respected Mark Gurman says that he expects nothing "particularly innovative" or "extraordinary" to launch at Apple's "Spring Loaded" event next week, Tuesday, April 20. Gurman made the remarks during an interview for Bloomberg Technology, in which he reaffirmed that Apple will launch a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the higher-end model featuring a brand new...
duanrui iphone13 notch samples

More Leaked iPhone 13 Samples Show Smaller Notch, Repositioned Earpiece and Front Camera

Wednesday April 14, 2021 1:06 am PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has today shared an image of two iPhone 13 "film samples," which show the same rumored smaller notch design coming to the iPhone 13 series that we've seen from other sources. In past tweets, DuanRui has accurately leaked the correct names of the iPhone 12 models and an iPad Air 4 manual revealing its new design, so there's good reason to think this leak is credible, ...
siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event hashflag

Twitter Hashflag for April 20 Apple Event Goes Live

Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:21 pm PDT by
Following the overnight Siri leak and subsequent announcement that Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday, April 20, a new Twitter hashflag has appeared to help provide visibility for the event on the platform. For the last several recent events, Apple has utilized hashflags, which are little icons next to hashtags on Twitter, as a way to market its events. The company first started the...
parallels windows 10 arm mac

Parallels 16.5 Can Virtualize ARM Windows Natively on M1 Macs With Up to 30% Faster Performance

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:00 am PDT by
Parallels today announced the release of Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac with full support for M1 Macs, allowing for the Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview and ARM-based Linux distributions to be run in a virtual machine at native speeds on M1 Macs. Parallels says running a Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview virtual machine natively on an M1 Mac results in up to 30 percent better performance compared ...
iphone 13 pro render rear

iPhone 13 Pro Rumored to Be Thicker and Feature Larger Rear Camera System

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:07 am PDT by
Tech blog 91Mobiles has obtained 3D renders of what it claims will be the iPhone 13 Pro, revealing a largely familiar design with a few notable changes, including a smaller notch and a significantly larger rear camera system. Following renders of the standard iPhone 13 model from MySmartPrice yesterday, which showed a new diagonal rear camera layout, these renders of the 6.1-inch iPhone 13...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...