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Apple Taking Siri's Hearing Into Its Own Hands

Apple Taking Siri's Hearing Into Its Own Hands

In the iPhone 4S, Apple relied on the audio processing technology of Audience to improve the hearing of Siri, the iPhone's virtual assistant. Now, however, Apple has indicated that it will handle the function in-house, lengthening a growing trend of relying on outside help only until it can manage -- and control -- things itself.

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
09/11/12 5:00 AM PT

Apple will not be using audio processing technology from Audience in the next iPhone, according to an investor note from the audio solutions company, indicating the Cupertino company could be looking to further develop voice technology in-house.

Audience provides a combination noise suppression processor and audio processing chip that improves signal recognition capabilities in Siri, the virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S.

The company announced in an investor note last week that it does not expect Apple to continue using its patents for the next version of the iPhone, however.

Audience acknowledged the company could suffer losses without the revenue from the sales to Apple, but said it was looking forward to continuing to provide audio processing technology to the mobile market as well as to makers of smart TVs and automotive equipment.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the story. An Audience spokesperson was not immediately available to provide further details.

Siri Going Forward

Apple is likely to provide more information about Siri and the inclusion of voice technology in its iPhone line when it launches its next product. That could be as early as the end of this month, as Apple is expected to announce its newest product lineup at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 12.

The Cupertino company is typically very secretive about product details before an official launch, so it's unknown how big a role a revamped Siri will play in the newest phone. Considering how popular the inclusion of Siri was in Apple's iPhone 4S debut about a year ago, however, it's likely the company wants to continue development with the technology, said Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research.

"Siri was a bit of a game-changer when it came out on the 4S," he told MacNewsWorld. "It's hard to document, but it was definitely a quantitative factor in 4S sales, and so it's expected to be a big part of the iPhone 5."

That's going to be the case even if the initial thrill from Siri is wearing off, said Miller. With continued improvements to the technology, Apple will likely encourage consumers to use voice technology in ways where typical tapping and touchpad motions are more difficult, said Miller.

"The technology is at a point where it's getting good enough for people to be more comfortable using it," said Miller. "It's never going to be perfect, but we're probably going to see efforts to enforce more 'speechable' moments. For instance, showing consumers they can accomplish tasks in a car, navigating or dictation such as in the case of doctors dictating notes. Its time has come."

Apple Taking Control

Much of the technology that made some of those moments possible came from Audience's innovations that were able to isolate background noise and improve some of the natural language functions of the technology.

Now, however, Apple seems to be making the decision to either further develop the technology within the company or look elsewhere for innovative voice. Neither Audience nor Apple indicated which road the Cupertino company is taking.

Apple make a similar move with its maps function, announcing earlier in the year that it was dumping Google's map platform it used in iOS. It opted instead to develop the technology in-house, despite Google's additional years of experience and infrastructure in the area.

"We've seen it in many instances, where Apple starts with something but then wants to take it in-house to get more control over the function," Trip Chowdhry, senior analyst for Global Equities Research, told MacNewsWorld. "It's a typical move for the company that doesn't like too many other hands involved in its mobile process."


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