Apple acquires AI startup to improve Siri's natural language processing

How to set up 'Hey Siri' on iPhone or iPad
How to set up 'Hey Siri' on iPhone or iPad (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has acquired AI startup Voysis.
  • The company specializes in helping voice assistants better understand natural language.
  • Apple could use this technology to improve Siri's listening capabilities.

Apple has been improving Siri in a number of ways over the years. At WWDC last June, the company introduced a new "voice" of Siri that sounded much more natural when responding to questions from users. They even recently employed Siri's help to answer questions about the coronavirus.

Now, it appears the company is putting efforts behind Siri's ability to understand those who are talking to the voice assistant better. Reported by Bloomberg, Apple has acquired Voysis, an artificial intelligence startup that focused on helping voice assistants better understand natural language.

"A now-removed company webpage said the technology could narrow product search results by processing shopping phrases such as "I need a new LED TV" and "My budget is $1,000." Voysis provided this AI to other companies to incorporate it into their own apps and voice assistants."

It appears that Voysis's technology is able to operate with such a small footprint that it could enable Siri to run much more efficiently, even without an internet connection.

"Voysis's system taps into Wavenets, an AI-based method for creating more human-like computer speech that was first developed by Google's DeepMind in 2016. Voysis co-founder Peter Cahill said in 2018 that his company managed to shrink its system to the point where, once the AI is trained, the software uses as little as 25 megabytes of memory -- about the same size as four Apple Music songs. That made it much easier to run on smartphones without an internet connection."

As to exactly how Voysis will be incorporated into Siri is unknown. A spokesperson for Apple would only say that the company "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

This is the second acquisition by the company this week. Earlier in the week, it was announced that Apple acquired the popular weather app Dark Sky.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.