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Is Apple Building Voice Recognition Into the Next iPhone?

Dave Courbanou

September 27, 2011

2 Min Read
Is Apple Building Voice Recognition Into the Next iPhone?

Currently, Google Android has the leg-up in the voice-command department. Android offers a near system-wide access to spoken commands, texts and searches for instant transcription. Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, has very basic voice-command support and certainly doesn’t support transcription, yet. But a new report claims Apple’s big new announcement won’t be about new hardware, but rather some groundbreaking features in iOS 5.

9to5Mac claims to know the big secret Apple has been guarding for the Oct. 4 event: a source has revealed that Nuance’s voice recognition technology, meshed with Apple’s purchase of Siri, the digital assistant iOS application, will deliver a near-natural vocal interface to the iPhone. Simply say what you need the iPhone to do, and it’ll do it. 9to5Mac claims the iOS-wide integration will be simply dubbed “Assistant,” and asking iPhone to do a task such as “make an appointment for a meeting on Thursday for 10 a.m.,” will instantly create a Calendar entry, for example. Ask iPhone for the latest movie times or directions, all naturally, and the correct application will be called up to provide the information you asked for.

Assistant integration apparently will also be integrated with Wolfram Alpha, a huge knowledge base of of information that works much like Google and Wikipedia combined. So next time you have an argument, you can say “iPhone, who won the 2000 World Series?” and your iPhone respond with, “The Yankees.” Theoretically, you could ask it a follow-up question, such as, “Have the Yankees won any World Series since?” and the iPhone will — again theoretically — reply with, “Yes, in 2009.”

I think I’m going to name my new iPhone HAL.

9to5Mac claims Assistant will only be able to run on the latest and greatest iPhone, because the new iPhone 5 — or 4S — will feature the A5 CPU and 1GB of RAM, a considerable bump from what iPhone 4 users (and even iPad 2 users) have under the hood right now.

Here’s the best part: If Apple really does offer “Assistant” when iOS 5 and a new iPhone launches, it will be fulfilling this nearly 25-year-old promise of the future …

Apple’s Knowledge Navigator was way ahead of its time, but this is likely what Apple has been developing if 9to5Mac is to believed. You might wonder why Apple would focus on voice commands when people are looking for new and sexy hardware, but Apple has always been a company to tell consumers what they want, not ask consumers what they think they want. If Apple’s Assistant catches on, I’ll give it 10 years before we’re asking our cars and computers to start up for us. I can’t wait.

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