One of the glaring omissions from Apple’s iOS 5 unveiling at WWDC 2011 held this past June was the mention of voice recognition technology. For as much as people like to talk about Android copying Apple, there’s no denying that Google is tops when it comes to voice recognition technology.
But Apple’s angling hard to catch up.
For months there have been rumors regarding Apple’s intent to deeply integrate voice recognition into iOS 5.
Back in May, reports surfaced that Apple was negotiating with Nuance to include its world class speech recognition engine in iOS 5. Prior to that, Apple in 2010 purchased Siri, an award winning company highly regarded for their voice activated search technology.
We’ve previously described some of the more interesting functions of Siri’s technology (which is powered by Nuance by the way):
Siri’s technology also gives users the ability to accomplish other tasks via voice command such as booking a restaurant. Even cooler, and we’ll have to wait until June to see if this functionality persists, but the original Siri iPhone app allowed users to say a phrase like, “Tell my boss I’m going to be 15 minutes late.” Upon recognizing the command, the app then searched the user’s contact lists and social networks until it found someone designated as “boss”. The app would subsequently transcribe the command and send it as a text to the recipient in question.
Coupled with a number of Apple job listings explicitly looking for Speech Recognition Engineers, many thought voice recognition was a foregone conclusion in iOS 5 but the topic was never even touched upon by Scott Forstal.
But, Apple may have a surprise for us yet.
Now we’ve previously read that Apple didn’t mention voice recognition for two reasons. One, Apple was still inking out a mutually acceptable licensing deal with Nuance. Two, Apple wanted to keep a trick up it’s sleeve so it’d have something cool to show off when Steve Jobs (hopefully) introduces the next-gen iPhone sometime in August or September.
And now 9to5Mac fleshes out some more information about Apple’s vision for voice recognition and functionality based on information they’ve discovered in Apple’s iOS SDK.
So as you can tell, Apple’s working on a new feature for iOS that will apparently be called “Assistant.”
So much like Siri’s personal assistant app, Apple’s implementation will leverage voice recognition across a user’s contact list. Interestingly the description notes that information such as contact names and location will be sent back to Apple for processing “to improve Apple products and services.
“This would be a process akin to Apple’s iTunes and App Store Genius functions,” 9to5Mac theorizes.
While we’re hoping to see voice recognition in the final iteration of iOS 5, the report notes that development on the service isn’t 100% complete as it just entered the testing phase recently.
Finally, below is a video demo of how Siri, which gain was acquired by Apple, works.