Apple buys A.I. voice assistant startup

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voysis.ai.image
Apple's latest acquisition could help Siri level up.
Photo: Voysis

Apple has acquired Voysis, an artificial intelligence startup the high-tech company is expected to use to improve Siri and its natural language technology, based on published reports Friday.

According to a Bloomberg report, the Dublin, Ireland-based company creates A.I. technologies that listen to and translate human voice. The Voysis platform allowed customers to ask more specific questions with terms such as “I need a 12-inch stainless steel pan” or “show me nonstick pans.”

Apple confirmed the acquisition to with its standard boilerplate statement: “[Apple] buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple’s AI ambitions

Obviously Apple’s plans for the acquisition aren’t being made available to the public but there are a number of ways the tech would be invaluable to Apple. It could integrate some of Voysis’ code into Siri for more specific questions. It’s more likely though that Apple will use it to create an API based on the e-commerce tools it built for retailers.

“Retailers know that their customers don’t know what they want when they come to their site. That’s why so many have invested in website tools, retargeting and more,” said Voysis CEO Peter Cahill in a CNBC from 2017. “We help them give users a better mobile search experience, helping them find what they’re looking for much faster.”

One of the key features that sets Voysis’ code apart from other AI software is its small footprint. Once the AI is trained it only takes up about 25MB. Apple could possibly take some of those tricks to reduce Siri’s footprint and run more of its processes on the device instead of requiring a data connection.

Apple has been on a hot streak of purchasing AI companies lately. The company has been lagging behind companies like Google and Amazon for years despite being one of the first to come out with a digital AI assistant (Siri). Some of Apple’s most recent AI-focused acquisitions include companies like Emotient, Turi, VocalIQ and Xnor.ai .