According to a report by TechCrunch, Apple has quietly acquired Novauris Technologies, an automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology company well-known as the voice dictation pioneer. The company, which was founded in 2002, grew of a British research subsidiary of Dragon Systems and was being run by Yoon Kim, Melvyn Hunt and John Bridle, a team who worked at Dragon, Nortel, SRI and Aurix.
Following the unannounced acquisition, which reportedly took place last year, the team has been working on improving Siri, Apple’s speech-based virtual assistant technology. While the Novauris website doesn’t make any note of the Apple acquisition, the source contacted one of the co-founders over the phone, who confirmed that he and the team now work for Apple, and that Novauris itself is no longer an active entity.
Novauris may not have been a household name, but its founders were internationally known speech researchers, and key members while at Dragon Systems, a company known for products like “DragonDictate” and “Dragon NaturallySpeaking.” Novauris had been developing its own large-vocabulary, automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology for access to information stored locally on mobile devices or remotely on servers, which they patented in the U.S. and abroad, and licensed to major corporations worldwide.
According to a Novauris fact sheet, its customers included OEMs and carrier partners such as Verizon Wireless, Panasonic, Samsung, SingTel, Alpine, BMW and others. Verizon, for example, used Novauris for its mobile “Get It Now Search” service for BREW devices back in 2006.
A couple of years back, Novauris demoed a London guide app called “Speak&Go London”, which was highly praised by the press for its extremely fast speech recognition because it took place on the smartphone itself.
Update: Apple has confirmed the acquisition to the WSJ with its boilerplate statement:
Apple confirmed the deal with its standard statement on acquisitions, though didn’t say when it took place or how much it paid. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a spokesperson said.