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Apple's Echo Competitor Could Feature Next-Gen Language API

This could be Apple's secret weapon in taking on Amazon's Echo
Apple's Software
May 30, 2016

If you’ve been wondering how Apple could take on Amazon’s Echo, this could be the answer: a brand new language API, which is currently said to be in development at Apple, could power the upcoming Echo-competitor.

Before now, we’d heard that Apple is apparently working on a product that could take on Amazon’s Echo, which itself has proven to be something of a surprise hit among critics and users. Apple, apparently, is planning on integrating facial recognition technology (alongside a handful of cameras) into its Echo product, and now, it seems a next-generation language API could further bolster the product.

Tech Insider (via MacRumors) has the scoop, and explains that VocalIQ, a startup specializing in "natural language, belief tracking, decision making, and message generation," is set to play a central role in Apple’s development of a new natural language API. This news comes according to a source familiar with VocalIQ’s work, who spoke to Tech Insider.

The publication explains:

Before Apple bought the company, VocalIQ tested its product against Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, and the results were impressive. Users asked each AI questions using normal language, not the robotic commands you’re used to using with digital assistants. Those commands can be long and complicated, and the other assistants had trouble catching everything.

For example, imagine asking a computer to “Find a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and WiFi that’s kid-friendly.” That’d trip up most assistants, but VocalIQ could handle it. The result? VocalIQ’s success rate was over 90%, while Google Now, Siri, and Cortana were only successful about 20% of the time, according to one source.

The last we heard, Apple’s Echo product could launch either later this year, or at some point next year. If Siri is given a boost through the VocalID acquisition, it could also be that we see an improved version of the virtual assistant launch on iOS (and perhaps even watchOS), too.

For now, more information could reach us either during WWDC in June, or at Apple’s September event later this year. We’ll keep you posted with further information as we receive it.