Apple regularly acquires artificial intelligence startups to build up Siri’s capabilities, but its latest purchase might make Siri more conversational. According to Bloomberg, Apple just bought Voysis, an AI startup that makes it easier to use a voice assistant to buy stuff in shopping apps.
It’s unclear how Apple plans to use the technology developed by Voysis, which processes natural language using software that takes up minimal space on a smartphone. But ideally, Siri will incorporate Voysis so that Apple’s voice assistant is as conversational as Google Assistant, which understands context and more natural phrasing than Siri does.
Siri’s capabilities have grown since Apple first introduced its voice assistant in 2011, but it’s not as advanced as Google Assistant or Alexa (for many reasons, many of them related to Apple’s stance on privacy). iOS 13 made Siri’s voice more natural, but the assistant still often fails to understand queries unless they’re phrased in a specific way.
Bloomberg dug up the Voysis website, now defunct, which explains that its technology allows shoppers to ask voice assistants to narrow down shopping search results with phrases like, “I need a new LED TV,” and “My budget is under $US1,000 ($1,667).” Apple could fold that into Siri to make it easier to ask contextual follow-up questions for more difficult queries (anything beyond weather forecasts).
This is the second surprise acquisition Apple has made public this week, following the announcement that it purchased the popular weather forecast app Dark Sky. That app will remain functional on iOS, but will be discontinued for Android.