IOS Features Voice Recognition, Hearing Aid Software

Apple’s new iOS 5 software may expand speech recognition and include a hearing aid mode, according to developers, showing the company continues to add functionality and improve the device as its fall release date nears.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company released the beta version of iOS 5 over the weekend, and reviewers were mixed about what they discovered while installing it. Apple frequently releases beta versions of software so developers can work on apps before devices are released.

One developer noted the release includes a hearing aid mode, which may improve compatibility between Apple devices and hearing aids. Another blog, 9to5Mac, said the new software also included a speech recognition feature, Apple “Assistant,” which recognises natural speech and combines device and cloud processing.

Previous rumours indicated the new iPhone 5 would include Assistant, to be powered by the voice control app Siri, which Apple bought last year.

The weekend beta release further suggests Apple is moving ahead in talks with Nuance to enhance its voice recognition capabilities. Nuance makes Dragon dictation software, and its technology powers Siri’s voice recognition system.

“The functionality is also not yet active, perhaps because Apple is yet to secure the final deal believed to be in negotiation with Nuance, and as such the server-side processing is unlikely to be ready,” wrote SlashGear’s Chris Davies. “Sources have suggested that Assistant support is only initially intended for the smaller iOS devices, iPhone and iPod touch, though iPad support is a possibility.”

The updates developers observed this weekend may not be the last iOS 5 iteration before the iPhone 5 comes out this fall. When Apple unveiled iOS 5 in June, it outlined only 10 of the 197 updates that will be included on the new iPhone to help it compete with Google and Research in Motion.

Apple is likely to release several more beta versions of iOS 5 before its final version goes out. And the amount of buzz around the system, if translated into sales, may indicate the iPhone 5 will be a powerful contender that may leave competitors scrambling to hold their share of the mobile technology market.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.