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Nuance CEO predicts an effective ubiquitous personal assistant within two years

Ricci also confirms Nuance is still the speech recognition component of Apple’s Siri

Paul Ricci, CEO of Nuance Communications, in an interview at AllThingsD’s D11 conference, predicted, “We will see within two years virtual assistants that are quite robust with respect to the common domains you would want to use on a smartphone…restaurants, media, very good at command and control of the device. I think there will be very high functionality at doing that. They will be context-specific, and they will have some information that carries over from your usage. So they will be refined by your personal usage and the preferences you have. I think those systems will be quite good for general usage within the next couple of years.”

“I also believe that within two years we will see that virtual assistant work across platforms,” Ricci continued. “So you might for example be using your tablet, your television in the living room, your phone, and this personal assistant will follow you across these devices.” Later, Ricci opined, “I think the smartphone is likely to become the hub of a lot of command and control of all these devices and things that are connected to the Internet. And that’s why I think these capabilities are going to be integrated with this common virtual assistant.” This vision describes the “ubiquitous” personal assistant I discussed in my blog and my book, The Software Society.

Nuance was known to provide the speech recognition component in Siri when Siri was an independent company, with the natural language interpretation contributed by the Siri founders. It has been assumed that Nuance continued the relationship with Apple after Apple acquired Siri, but never confirmed by either company. Answering a question about Siri in the D11 interview, Ricci said that Nuance was “the fundamental provider of voice recognition for Apple.” Ricci confirmed that Nuance does not handle Siri’s understanding layers, only the speech-to-text part. Ricci said that Siri has both embedded and cloud technology for speech recognition, with the more complex processing in the cloud.

The full interview, conducted by the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, is available online.

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