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Apple Acquires U.K.-Based Speech Technology Startup VocalIQ

VocalIQ has been working on new spoken interfaces that could be used in cars, wearables and Internet-connected devices in the home.

Apple has acquired a U.K.-based artificial intelligence company that is developing a more natural, human way for machines and people to communicate.

VocalIQ has been working on new spoken interfaces that could be used in a variety of applications — from the car to wearables to Internet-connected devices in the home.

Its expertise in teaching machines to understand the way people speak (instead of training humans to talk like robots) would clearly benefit Apple, which has been working to improve the aptitude of its Siri virtual assistant.

Enhancing Siri’s ability to better understand what people are asking — or to follow up with questions when its unclear — would touch virtually everything Apple does, from its iPhones and the Apple Watch to the electric car it still has under wraps.

The Cupertino technology company issued a statement confirming the deal, which was first reported by the Financial Times: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

The startup grew out of the University of Cambridge’s Dialog Systems Group, which uses deep learning to improve language recognition. VocalIQ did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

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