Over the last few years, there’s no denying that Siri has improved by leaps and bounds. While Apple’s intelligent personal assistant was easy to make fun of a few years back, Apple has devoted a lot of R&D resources towards expanding Siri’s skill-set while also making it much more reliable. Siri still isn’t perfect and, to be fair, it still has some serious competition from the likes of Google and Amazon. Nonetheless, Apple has been upfront about how seriously it takes AI and, as a result, we can expect to see some exciting new Siri improvements in the years ahead, perhaps as early as next year when Apple drops iOS 11.
Underscoring Apple’s commitment to Siri, Business Insider earlier this week profiled a secret lab Apple has in the UK where a team of scientists and researchers are working on bringing Siri to the next level. Of particular interest is that the group is specifically focused on improving Siri’s ‘voice’ so that it sounds more human-like and less robotic. The report is not altogether surprising, especially given that the revamped version of Siri in iOS 10 already sounds more human-like than it did in iOS 9. Clearly, this is an aspect of Siri that Apple takes very seriously.
VocalIQ’s software — designed to help computers and people speak to each other in a more natural dialogue — hasn’t found its way into Siri yet, according to an artificial intelligence (AI) expert that Business Insider spoke to earlier this year with knowledge of voice recognition platforms. “I think it’s extremely unlikely that [VocalIQ] is in Siri now,” the source said. “In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. But obviously Apple have got it for a reason.”
The source said they could tell that VocalIQ’s technology hadn’t been integrated into Siri just by talking to the personal assistant. VocalIQ has a “a very particular style of dialogue … and I haven’t seen that in Siri,” they said.
The aforementioned team reportedly works out of a nondescript building in Cambridge and is said to house upwards of 30 employees. Notably, many of Apple’s Siri team members there formerly worked at VocalIQ, a voice recognition and AI company Apple acquired in October of 2015. For those unfamiliar, VocalIQ’s technology specialized in creating natural conversations between devices and individuals with an ability to appreciate context, an area where Siri currently lags behind its Google counterpart.