Microsoft has finally released details concerning its voice-activated assistant Cortana, joining the ranks of Apple's Siri and Google Now. This may have spurred further development and competition in the field, as reports suggest Apple has purchased a company to boost Siri's capabilities.
Cortana, Microsoft's new personal assistant, is part of the new operating system Windows Phone 8.1. Powered by Bing, Cortana's voice is that of Halo voice actor Jen Taylor, and can be interacted with through speech or typing. The Cortana service will also become part of other Microsoft apps and services, such as Skype, and will be opened up to third-party developers.
Despite strong reviews, Cortana has not left Siri in the dust. According to TechCrunch, the iPad and iPhone maker has acquired Novauris Technologies, a speech recognition firm founded by speech researchers and key members of the team from Dragon Systems R&D, developers of DragonDictate.
Apple told the publication that "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Novauris was set up in 2002 and began developing automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology based on mobile devices and services, filing a number of patents in the process. The firm owned the core technology, which is valuable for Apple — especially since the tech giant once tried unsuccessfully to purchase Nuance, the technology that powers Siri.
This acquisition and setting the team to work on Siri apparently took place last year, but was not announced. However, the additional skill set will no doubt improve the task assistant's capabilities; it comes pre-installed on the iPad and iPhone product lines.