Siri is so far behind the competition that we left Apple’s digital assistant out of our recent Alexa vs Google Assistant face-off. Not only does Siri have a lot less skills than its rivals, it often has difficulty understanding listeners and processing requests. But help is on the way in the form of Apple’s shiny new purchase.
As reported by Bloomberg, Apple has acquired Voysis, a Dublin-based AI startup that should be able to help Siri better understand natural language. There's no timetable for Voysis getting integrated into Siri, but this secret weapon would certainly help the upcoming iPhone 12 and other iPhones stand out versus the best Android phones.
What could Siri help you do better? Shopping is definitely high on the list. A now-removed Voysis company webpage gave the example of how users could narrow product search results by combining parameters. So you could say “I need a new LED TV” and “My budget is $1,000.”
In a video that’s still on YouTube — for now — Voysis describes itself as a “complete voice AI platform.” And it shows a furniture retailer example where a person uses natural language while shopping online. The shopper first says, “I’m looking for coffee tables.” Then he follows up with “show me modern ones with round glass tops.”
To further narrow his search, the shopper says “Just show me ones that are lighter.” And he also adds his price range, saying “My budget is only $500.” With each command the search results further narrow.
I could easily see Apple integrated Voysis into its own apps, such as the App Store for finding specific types of games or in Apple TV Plus for discovering shows to watch. But things will get a lot more interesting if Apple opens up this platform to developers.
Voysis was already providing its AI to other companies to incorporate it into their apps and voice assistants, so it’s reasonable to assume that Apple would integrate this technology directly into Siri and then allow iOS developers to tap into it.
As Bloomberg reports, Voysis would take up very little room. The company’s co-founder said in 2018 that he shrunk the system down to the point that the software uses just 25MB of memory. Perhaps this will allow Apple to put more of Siri’s intelligence directly into its phones and rely less on the cloud, as the latter leads to much greater latency.
It’s unlikely that this newly acquired technology would be ready in time for iOS 14, which will be shown off for the first time at Apple’s all-digital WWDC 2020 event. But it’s possible that Apple could deliver at least some Voysis features via a subsequent update to Apple devices in time for the iPhone 12 launch this fall.