One day, we'll all expect our gadgets to respond intelligently to voice commands. But right now, with the exception of Siri, nothing really works very well.
Sure, there is software that takes pretty good dictation — Google's voice search for example — and the infotainment systems in cars have incorporated clunky voice control systems to make phone calls and play music. But when it comes to imaginary, techno-utopian futures in which voice control is really seamlessly integrated into the apps we use everyday, well, it just doesn't exist. Zypr, a new upstart built by Pioneer, could help change that.
The idea behind Zypr is to allow any device maker or application developer to incorporate intelligent voice control without having to build it from scratch. It lives in the cloud, and is accessible via API. It's also open, which means anybody can access it. Zypr was announced earlier this year, and was opened up to developers today.
So what does that mean for you, the user of gadgets?
It means better voice control across devices — regardless of who makes it or what OS it runs. The idea is that Zypr will work just as well in your car as on your TV.
Like Siri, Zypr's engine is designed to understand conversational language, and it's not designed for use with specific applications or services. It does this by breaking down what you want to do with services into a series of categories like social, weather, map, point of interest, etc. When you want to tweet, or change your status on Facebook, what you really want to do is post an update. Similarly, emailing and texting are just two versions of sending a message. By breaking your activity down into a series of tasks, Zypr can cover a lot of services — Facebook at Twitter both use the social part of the API. It also means that it will be easy to add services that don't exist yet — so when the next social network comes barrelling down the line, Zypr can adapt quickly.
Zypr's engine is conversational — meaning that it can interpret and make pretty good guesses about what task you are trying to accomplish. But even Pioneer warned us that it won't reach Siri's Darpa-funded, artificially intelligent glory. Zypr's API supports a number of the services we all use everyday, but so far there's no real applications to back it up. In other words, we still don't know how well the voice control works. Zypr might be great, but to a certain extent its success will rely on developers and device makers cooperating with Pioneer's revenue sharing plans, which are still somewhat opaque. [Zypr]