Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) reportedly has acquired a British startup called Novauris Technologies, which specializes in automatic speech recognition technology. Apple never officially announced the acquisition, which apparently happened more than a year ago, but Novauris told TechCrunch that it now works for Apple.
It’s likely that the team is working to enhance the abilities of Siri, the personal assistant app on the iOS platform. Novauris’ technology works on-device, meaning it could help Siri work offline as well as speed up response time.
Apple is likely to announce an update along with other improvements to iOS in June at the annual World Wide Developers Conference. While Apple fans will be excited, the move exemplifies a new trend of Apple trying to catch up to its competitors in technology after years of leading the field.
Apple debuted Siri to much fanfare in 2011 with the iPhone 4S, but has since been surpassed in functionality by Google Now, which can be activated by saying “OK Google,” provides predictive information based on Google searches and works offline. Siri will face even more competition from Microsoft’s announced assistant, Cortana, which is still in beta.
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Apple has also fallen behind competitors in emerging device platforms. Samsung is ready to release the second generation of its Gear smartwatch, and Google recently revealed a new version of the Android operating system that will power smartwatches like the coming Motorola Moto 360. Apple’s much-rumored smartwatch has yet to make a public appearance, and many doubt that it will even appear at WWDC this year.
This week’s debut of Amazon Fire TV has also set a fire under Apple to release a new version of Apple TV. Sales of Apple TV topped $1 billion in 2013, a growth of 80 percent that makes the device Apple’s fastest-growing hardware, but Apple hasn’t released a major update to Apple TV since March 2012.
After Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV, it’s likely that a new Apple TV will be a feature of WWDC alongside an iOS update with expanded Siri features. Apple could quickly change directions, but the company known for changing the tech world with the iPod, iPhone and iPad has so far spent 2014 lagging behind its competitors.