Startup developed natural-language research for autos, other devices
A report from London's Financial Times indicates that Apple has bought a natural-language development startup called VocalIQ that has developed applications for in-car apps, wearables, "smarthome" devices, and other applications where a voice interface works well. The company has been working on a natural-language API for automated self-learning that would allow users to interact even more naturally with voice-powered assistive services and devices. The company had previously criticized voice systems like Siri and Cortana for their inability to learn as they interacted with users.
Voice assistant adds new jokes, hints to patter when queried about reveal
While it is widely referred to more as an iPhone event, the September 9 Apple media conference actually has a title, or at least a theme: "Hey Siri, give me a hint," a reference to the secrecy, teasing, and general mystery that surrounds such occasions. Users have tested Siri on their iOS devices by requesting information using the event title's command, and the voice-powered assistant has recently upped its game with more hints and wisecracks.
Our grades for the likelihood of various whispers and scuttlebutt
So now that it is finally confirmed that Apple has chosen September 9 for its big event, and a different venue than usual to accommodate more press and that requires some street closures for a likely outdoor component (which hints strongly that something unexpected is up), the rumors are again flying about what we should expect to see at the event. Let's have a look at what's being whispered about, and a (speculative) look at the odds any of it will happen.
Supposed iCloud Voicemail service uses Siri to answer calls
Siri may one day answer phone calls and transcribe voicemail messages for its users, a report claims, a feature that could end up being more important than the introduction of Visual Voicemail. Employees at Apple are allegedly testing a service which will listen to voicemail messages, transcribe them into text-based versions, and then have them delivered to the user's iPhone, allowing for the content of the message to be quickly understood by the user, without needing to listen to the voicemail at all.
Calcbot, Calculator for Apple Watch, PCalc, and Siri
The fact that Apple Watch only shows its face when you turn your wrist or use the Digital Crown makes us flash back to the 1970s when the first-ever digital watches needed a good thump before they'd show the time. Now the fact that you can have a calculator on your wrist is reviving memories of being called a nerd, and discovering we never had any need to calculate anything. Calcbot, CalculatorWatch and PCalc may change that -- but so might Siri.
Pro tip: bellowing at your wrist won't work
If you've got an Apple Watch, you've said 'Hey Siri' to it and it hasn't worked. It seems to fail the most whenever you try to show it off to someone but really, it fails enough that you stop using what is really a superb feature of your Watch. Just do this: lift the watch up and –– most important –– wait until the screen wakes, then begin 'Hey Siri' immediately followed by whatever you want to ask.
It doesn't work quite how you'd expect
One of the many fine things about Apple Watch is how it can show you what your next appointment is. Right there on the watch face, you can choose to see what's coming up next for you. It is gorgeous and handy but there is a whole Calendar app on Apple Watch and that's not as completely, entirely, totally wonderful. It's limited as you might imagine but the problem is that it doesn't do things quite the way you expect. Here's how it does what it does – and how to get the most out of it.
Zhizen turned loose patents into Siri clone, then sued Apple as copycat
After two legal defeats, Apple has won its case on appeal in a lawsuit brought by Zhizhen Network Technology that dates back to 2012. The Beijing Higher People's Court has ruled that Apple did not violate any patents held by the Shanghai-based Zhizhen, and thus no infringement has occurred. Apple first attempted to have the Zhizhen patent, which covered only "a type of instant messaging chat bot system," invalidated, but later sued the government and the company when authorities ruled in favor of Zhizhen.
One tip for more precise timers on your iPhone
This is not going to be the longest tutorial you've ever read. Here it is: you can tell Siri to set a timer that includes seconds, not just the whole minutes you're forced to with the dials. Its a bit finicky, but here's the way to do it. That's it. It's short, and we're not going to pretend that it's a power-users hidden zen-ninja tip but, oh, is it useful. Also, there is just a fraction more to it than it sounds. A fraction. Barely a pixel, but handy to know.
Ridiculously easy way to edit relationship data into Contacts
This week's Pointers tip is short and sweet, and one of those head-slapping "of course!" moments. It's a far simpler way of adding your family into Siri so that she (or he) will understand who you mean when you say "send a text to my wife" or "read me the last email from my father." You can do this manually in Contacts (or the previous version, known as Address Book), but its a bit labor-intensive that way. Using this easier method, you can eliminate the dreaded "which John did you mean?" when you know more than one, and meant the one you're related to.
Built-in OS X, iOS utility has extra dimension for added usefulness
Even if you're particularly good at making a note about tasks you need to accomplish, you often get tasked with something only when people think to tell you -- and if the job is some time away, you may completely forget that you were asked to do it at all, apart from that nagging feeling that you've forgotten something important. Apple's built-in Reminders app (along with Siri) can make it easy to create a to-do or reminder item, but a lesser-known feature leveraging Location Services can make it nearly impossible to forget.
Direct app controls unrestricted
People wanting to control HomeKit-enabled devices remotely through Apple's Siri must have an Apple TV at home to serve as a hub, according to Verge sources, including two launch partners and a person said to be "close to HomeKit's development." Siri controls will always work while an iPhone or iPad is on the same network as a HomeKit device, but until now it wasn't fully clear how remote operation might work. The Apple TV must also be a third-generation model running at least v7.0 firmware or newer. Notably, remote operation without Siri -- using the vendor app for a HomeKit product directly - cuts out the Apple TV requirement.
Australia, France, Germany among new countries with movies
Apple has added a collection of new locations to its Flyover feature in Maps, and new countries to the list that can access movie listings through Siri. In the former category are Avignon, Biarritz, and Perpignan in France; the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater in Arizona; Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Dunedin in New Zealand, Royal Gorge in Arkansas, and finally Visby in Sweden. Apple has been slowly updating the number of areas with Flyover support since iOS 6 was released in 2012.
Points out study did not use built-in car integration, ignored Apple recommendations
Apple has issued a statement criticizing a study conducted by the University of Utah for the American Automobile Association in October that rated Apple's Siri (and other naturalistic voice-command virtual assistants by proxy) as "the most" distracting in-car task compared to just driving, adjusting the car's radio or temperature, or using built-in car navigation or infotainment systems. In its response, Apple points out some serious flaws in the study, including the fact that it deliberately avoided using the driving-specific Siri Eyes Free or CarPlay options.
Rudiments already present in iOS 8.0.2
Siri will have at least some commands related to Apple Pay, according to sources "close to Apple" cited by Bank Innovation. The site says that it has confirmed this to an extent itself; on an iPhone 6 with iOS 8.0.2, telling Siri to "open my Bank of America credit card" will open up Passbook, rather than a Bank of America app. Doing so also prompts users to enter their passcode or Touch ID.
Technology too complex, non-intuitive, company says
Even though Apple's Siri is meant to simplify smartphone commands and in some cases enable hands-free control, it's in fact a severe distraction for drivers, according to a study from the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety. The group studied 45 drivers, asking them to accomplish various tasks using native in-car voice systems as well as Siri. Real and simulated cars were used; for Siri, people were given an iPhone 5 with iOS 7, as well as a microphone. Siri users were asked to make phone calls, send and receive texts, update Facebook and Twitter, and check their calendar. Other voice systems were tested with tasks like adjusting the radio, listening to and composing messages, and navigating simple and complex menus.
Non-practicing entity seeking to use Apple expert testimony in possible trial
Patent licensing firm and non-practicing entity Unwired Planet (formerly known as Openwave) is demanding that Apple produce the damages reports it filed in 2012's Apple versus Samsung smartphone patent trial. Unwired Planet's attorneys claim in a filing that the documents produced in the trial will prove how its patents, that it claims are abused in iCloud, iPhones, iPads, and Siri, drive sales of Apple hardware. Apple is fighting the filing, saying that not only is its confidential data at stake and not relevant to this issue, but Samsung's data is at risk as well.
Hires from VoiceSignal, Nuance talent hints at further work on in-house Siri engine
More evidence of earlier speculation that Apple was developing its own Siri engine to replace the licensed one from Nuance emerged on Monday, as a local newspaper reported that Apple is expanding its Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Siri operations with recent hires from Nuance and VoiceSignal Technologies, a company now owned by Nuance. The team would be staying in the same building, but moving to larger quarters on the upper floors -- enough for 65 workers, reports say.
Features Beats Pill speakers, Siri in jokey self-congratulatory message
A brief video has been posted by new Apple employee Dr. Dre on the Beats Twitter account that both celebrates and pokes fun at the union of the two companies. The video, which features animated versions of the Beats Pill speakers and the disembodied voice of Siri, will remind some of the "talking car" Chevron advertisements done by Aardman Animation, makers of Wallace & Gromit in its style of animation and light humor between "Mikey" and "Tina."
Appeal already in works
Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court has upheld a 2006 Zhizhen patent challenged by Apple, says China's official Xinhua news agency. Zhizhen filed suit against Apple in 2012, accusing it of violating a patent used for its "Little I Robot" voice-controlled assistant with Siri, the voice command system used in iOS. Apple though sued Zihizhen and China's Patent Review Committee late last year, with the hope that the court would render Zhizhen's patent invalid.
Possible Samsung acquisition of Nuance seen as motivation to hasten next-generation engine
A new report claims that Apple has decided to form its own in-house speech recognition team to help create a future version of Siri, the company's popular virtual assistant. Motivation for this may have sprung from reports that Nuance, the company that currently powers the speech-recognition engine, was in talks with Samsung that may result in the Galaxy smartphone maker acquiring Nuance. Apple has been poaching employees of Nuance and recruiting others to build a complete speech team for quite some time, but new evidence has moved the story out of rumor status.
Could have ramifications for Apple's Siri platform
Voice recognition company Nuance is in talks about possibly selling itself to Samsung, says the Wall Street Journal. Discussions reportedly began this year, but other than that it's unknown whether the two sides are making progress or even if/when a takeover might happen. If it does, however, it could potentially have a significant impact on the high-tech world.
Podcasts gets support for Siri, CarPlay, AirDrop
In the wake of OS X 10.9.3 and iTunes 11.2, Apple has also released updated Podcasts and iTunes Connect apps for iOS. Podcasts 2.1 mirrors the latest changes in iTunes, incorporating a new Unplayed tab -- which makes it easier to listen to new content -- and "Feed" tab for browsing episodes ready to download or stream. Favorite episodes can be saved for later listening offline, and played ones can be deleted automatically.
Some iOS 8 features could be pushed into iOS 8.1
Several sources have offered a glimpse into the current status of several Apple projects. At this year's WWDC, for instance, the people say OS X 10.10 will play a more prominent role than iOS 8, as it should feature a major redesign and Apple wants developers to latch in. The company is even said to be allocating iOS interface labor to OS X teams in order to get the framework of v10.10's design done for WWDC.
Set-top could follow in footsteps of Amazon Fire TV
Code contained in iOS 7.1 and 7.1.1 suggests that Apple is planning to bring Siri to the Apple TV. A PLIST file for Assistant -- an internal Apple name for Siri -- includes the Apple TV lineup under its collection of supported devices. Notably, though, no Apple TV to date has included the microphone that would be needed for Siri.
Song-identification technology may be enlisted for Siri, iTunes Radio
Citing unnamed sources "with knowledge of the product," Bloomberg is reporting that Apple may enter into a partnership with song-identifying app Shazam to bring the music-matching feature to iOS 8. Users could, for example, ask Siri "what song is playing?" as they listen to iTunes Radio or other streaming music services, with the voice assistant enlisting Shazam's services to return an answer after a short identifying pause. This in turn would produce a link to the song on iTunes.
Available for all iOS 7-compatible devices
After a lengthy development and testing period, Apple has released the finished version of iOS 7.1 to the public. The code makes a number of improvements to iOS 7, for instance enabling CarPlay support in yet-to-be-launched vehicles. Siri will now let users hold down the Home button to decide how long a device should listen, instead of having to wait for the system to decide no one is talking. More naturalistic voices have been supplied for Japanese, British and Australian English, and Mandarin Chinese.
May solve smartwatch interface problems
Apple is working to expand Siri's third-party app integration with the iWatch in mind, a new report says. Siri already interacts with some third-party apps, like OpenTable or Wolfram Alpha, but in every case so far the companies have had to forge deals with Apple. The new scheme would allow third-party integration without an expressly signed agreement.
Alleges government failed to invalidate Zhizhen voice recognition patent
Apple has filed a lawsuit against China's State Intellectual Property Office, as well as Shanghai company Zhizhen Network Technology, according to news agencies Xinhua and Agence France-Presse. Zhizhen owns a voice recognition patent which Apple previously asked the SIPO to invalidate. The lawsuit is due to reach the Intermediate People's Court on Thursday.
Says 'reasonable consumer' wouldn't expect Siri to work perfectly
A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Claudia Wilken, has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Apple ads for the iPhone 4S were deceptive about the capabilities of Siri. In her ruling Wilken writes that the plaintiffs' claims depended on "non-actionable puffery," and failed to show evidence of fraud. A "reasonable consumer," she says, would not expect Siri to work perfectly all the time; the plaintiffs charged that Apple gave the impression Siri could handle any request instantly.
Continues minor interface tweaks
(Updated with evasi0n hack break, samples of new voices) Apple is now seeding a fifth beta of iOS 7.1 to developers. Changes appear relatively minor, but release notes mention "new natural-sounding Siri voices" for Japanese, the UK and Australian English dialects, and Mandarin Chinese. Apple also appears to be continuing visual tweaks to the OS, for instance by adding new Shift and Caps Lock buttons (below).
On-processor voice recognition offered by Intel to smartphone manufacturers
Intel's wearable computing efforts will attempt to trump other voice recognition systems from Apple and Google by using offline processing, it has revealed. Rather than taking advantage of the cloud infrastructure, Intel plans to include voice recognition software from a third-party company on the Intel mobile processor itself, in order to quickly understand a verbal request without connecting to the Internet.
Yahoo developing natural language digital assistant
Yahoo is working on its own voice-controlled digital assistant to rival that of Google Now and Apple's Siri, according to a new report. Android Police revealed on Wednesday a video that appears to show a Yahoo-branded personal assistant app running on an Android device. Sources familiar with Yahoo's plans say that the web giant will leverage its massive existing user base and various services to push out a service comparable to Apple and Google's offerings.
Google wins on 'most improved,' Siri gains upper hand on OS commands
An annual shootout between Google's Google Now and Apple's Siri voice-assisted virtual assitants conducted by Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray has resulted in a virtual tie, with both services receiving the same overall grade. Siri barely edged out Google Now by virtual of its better integration with OS commands -- an advantage that comes with the program's deep OS integration -- but both programs got the same overall grade (C+) and percentage of questions correct (79 percent).
Display Audio tech requires iPhone 5 or later
The 2014 Civic and the 2015 Fit will each get two forms of iOS integration, Honda has announced. The most significant is Display Audio, which will let users control functions like music, calling, and navigation through gesture controls on a built-in capacitive touchscreen. Connecting will require an iPhone 5, 5s, or 5c, and one or more of four new HondaLink apps: Connect, Navigation, Aha, and Launcher. Aha provides access to Internet audio including radio, podcasts, and audiobooks, plus Twitter and Facebook updates, and listings for nearby points of interest. Launcher is used to find and launch HondaLink-compatible apps. The official Honda apps are all free except for Navigation, which costs $60.
iOS mirroring still limited to 2014 Civic Coupe
Honda has officially launched Siri Eyes Free integration for a handful of vehicles. These include 2013 and 2014 models of the Honda Accord, and 2013 models of the Acura RDX and ILX. Eyes Free lets people trigger Siri through a button on their steering wheel, instead of having to reach for their iPhone to control functions like texting, music playback, or turn-by-turn navigation; it also shuts off the phone's screen to reduce distractions. To get the feature, car owners must pay for a dealer installation.
2014 Honda Civic Coupe to support iOS mirroring
The 2014 Civic Coupe will support iOS mirroring when it becomes available on December 4th, Honda has announced. The car has a 7-inch multi-touch display built into the dash, which people will be able to use to control an iOS device without having to use a mount or reach down. Honda adds that promised Siri Eyes Free updates for its vehicles will also be available in early December.
Investor tries to put rumors to rest
Wealthy investor Carl Icahn says he has no plans to push for Apple to buy out Nuance, according to a new Reuters report. Icahn spoke on the topic Monday, at the Reuters Global Investment Outlook Summit. "That is something I would never micromanage and never even think of telling [Apple CEO] Tim Cook," he said. "It has zero to do with the fact that I'm involved with Apple."
Bluetooth device remotely activates Siri anywhere in the car
While automobile Siri integration is surging, late model cars with only basic smartphone compatibility are left in the lurch. Chargers are often inside a dash, making the phone's microphone inaccessible or other inconveniences. Additionally, many states have outright banned holding and using mobile phones without a hands-free device, making tapping the home button to access Siri illegal. Beanco's Mobile Home device is a simple Bluetooth peripheral for the iPhone which purports to enable Siri's use with any car's hands-free system. Does the device really enhance the Siri experience for older hands-free systems? Read our review and find out.
Feature integrated into Chevy MyLink
Siri's "Eyes Free" mode will be supported in several 2014 Chevrolet cars, GM has announced. These include the Camaro, Volt, Malibu, SS, Cruze, and Equinox. The technology will be integrated via Chevy's MyLink service. Earlier in 2013, the company's Spark and Sonic models were among the first vehicles to get Eyes Free support.
Apple using voice samples recorded in 2005
The original US voice for Apple's Siri has been identified as an Atlanta woman, Susan Bennett, according to CNN. Bennett says that she only discovered her voice was being used by Apple when a friend emailed her and asked if it was her voice in an iPhone commercial; not owning the latest iPhone at the time, she had to visit the Apple website to confirm the fact. She explains that the samples used were actually recorded in July 2005, over six years before Apple would announce its first incarnation of Siri, for the iPhone 4S. A different version of Siri existed earlier as an independent app, before Apple bought out its developer.
May hint at plans for Siri
The developers of Cue -- a personal assistant app -- have shut down the app's service, according to an official announcement. In a manner similar to Google Now, the app was able to scan a person's email, contacts, and files and pull out important details for a daily agenda. Cue is promising refunds for Premium subscribers, and says it has already deleted any personal data stored on its servers.
Patch fails to resolve lockscreen vulnerabilities
A newly-documented technique lets people bypass the lockscreen in iOS 7.0.2 and dial any phone number, not just emergency numbers. The method involves waiting for a notification, or forcing one by sending a text message or ejecting the SIM card. Once the notification pops up, a hacker has to swipe right on it while simultaneously swiping up on the Camera icon. While keeping a finger on the Camera icon, a person must then slide to unlock and tap the Emergency Call button. After dialing, hitting the Call button quickly two or three times should crash Springboard, but allow the call to go through once Springboard restarts.
Apple considers iOS 7 updates significant enough
iOS' native voice command system, Siri, no longer has a "beta" tag, a look at related pages on Apple's website reveals. All references to beta status appear to have been dropped both graphically and in text. Until now, Siri has carried the beta label since its arrival on iOS in October 2011.
Geolocation used to improve service
Apple is currently seeking patent protection for technology that is designed to improve speech recognition through location awareness. A Thursday filing titled "Automatic input signal recognition using location based language modeling." describes a system that automatically associates voice input with location-specific language models and geographic information such as nearby businesses and street names.
Apple downplays upcoming competition
Apple has updated Siri with a number of jabs at Google Glass, users note. Most commands for the Glass headset are issued through voice, and prefaced by saying "Okay Glass." Using that phrase in Siri, though, will now trigger one of several jokes about the device.
iPad support may have to wait for iOS 7.0.1
Although Apple is almost finished with the iPhone and iPod version of iOS 7, the iPad release is running behind schedule, sources claim. iPad support only arrived two weeks after the first beta, and developers continue to complain that it's more unreliable than when the firmware is running on an iPhone. "Chatter inside Apple" allegedly points to the possibility of holding back iPad support from the public until a v7.0.1 update sometime in late September or October, possibly in tandem with new iPad models.
Could hint that Apple wants to replace Nuance tech
An Apple office near the MIT campus in Boston is focusing on speech technology for Siri, word from industry sources suggests. The sources tell Xconomy that Apple has assembled a small group of significant people in involved in speech technology, and is working to expand that effort in the Boston area. Online job profiles for the speech team are said to point to the Siri connection.
Tech in new, beta iOS releases
Apple has changed the way Siri responds to suicide references, users have discovered. Until this week, the system would simply display the locations of nearby mental health facilities. In the US Siri will now ask people if they want to talk to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On an iPhone, Siri can also ask to dial directly.
French, German voices too; more languages coming later
As expected, Siri will be given an upgrade in the forthcoming version set for iOS -- incorporating new services including Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing among other new sources. The interface will be reshaped to fit into the iOS 7 design aesthetic, with a "waveform" look that fades into view on a layer over the current content on the screen. The program will also now feature a new choice of voices -- a new female voice, or a male one if preferred -- with new voices for French and German users as well (and more languages in the works).