Just a few months ago, VocalIQ, a UK-based company that makes software that lets people talk to their devices in a natural-sounding way, published a blog post on its website that lamented the utility of today’s virtual personal assistants.
The blog post, called “Smartphone makers to consumers, ‘Lend Me Your Ears!'” called Siri, Apple’s personal assistant, a “toy.”
Now, VocalIQ has been bought by Apple, according to a report in the Financial Times.
All major technology companies are pouring billions into building up services like Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. Each was launched with a huge bang, promising great things but fell well short of consumer expectations. Some ended being used only as toys, like Siri. The rest, forgotten. Unsurprisingly.
VocalIQ’s blog post even references former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld when discussing Siri:
Any user of Siri, Cortana or Google Now (Virtual Private Assistant or VPA) will have a feeling while the vocabulary of the trio seems to improving (they understand the words better) their understanding is not (they continue to be clueless about context). And to misquote Mr. Rumsfeld, they don’t seem to know what they don’t know.
In the blog post, VocalIQ says that even though these virtual personal assistants have gotten good at recognising speech, the companies who make them “are still stuck with medieval approach when it comes of conversational voice dialog” because they’re “still using pre-programmed flow-chart based response that don’t learn.”
VocalIQ’s software, however, allows people to communicate back and forth with a device, like they’re having a real conversation. It also gets smarter as you use it. As my Tech Insider colleague Dave Smith explained, an app that uses VocalIQ’s technology not only remembers what a person says to it, but also knows to ask for more information when it doesn’t understand something.
The VocalIQ blog post doesn’t completely hate on Apple, though. It opens singing the praises of the company, saying that when it comes to the visual user experience on smartphones, Apple has won.
“Android, Windows Phone and various other Linux based platforms are at best, poor copies,” it said.
In a statement to Tech Insider, Apple gave its boilerplate response when asked if it had any comment on the reported acquisition. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
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