After losses and drama, more than $100 million in outside funding and a $500 million valuation, reports say London-based Spinvox could be bought for a mere $150 million by Nuance Communications, as Nuance tries to consolidate its leadership position in speech and voice recognition services.
Nuance Communications (s nuan), a provider of various speech recognition and predictive text products, said today it’s purchased Jott, whose service translates spoken messages into text and then emails or inserts them into various web services, for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, John Pollard, co-founder and CEO of Jott, will become a general manager in Nuance’s mobile division. Jott had previously raised $5.4 million from Bain Capital, Ackerley Partners, Draper Richards and Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom’s investment firm. Read More about Say What? Nuance Buys Jott for Speech Recognition Service
Realizing that the phone is now a computer, or possibly that ubiquitous wireless networks mean that computers can go anywhere, IBM (s ibm) said today it would spend $100 million on research over the next five years to improve mobile communications for businesses and consumers worldwide. This is a piddling amount for IBM (it spent $1 billion on its green effort), but Big Blue does have the street cred among enterprise customers to push mobile platforms for corporate computing in a big way if it so chooses. Currently mobile innovation is primarily benefiting consumers, who can use mobile devices to read books, find out the name of songs, shop and even track their fitness goals. Enterprise adoption of novel applications and phones, meanwhile, is still lagging over concerns about corporate security. IBM could help change that. Read More about IBM Throws $100 Million at Mobile
Nuance Communications (s NUAN) said today it’s offering an upgrade to its line of speech recognition software aimed at carriers and handset makers. The new software includes a combination of on-handset speech recognition and server-based transcription that means it can do far more than navigate an address book. It’s also a sign that carriers are interested in offering up voice recognition as an easy way to navigate through content on mobile phones — while at the same time getting consumers to use their data plans.
The new software will allow users to dictate texts and emails, find information on the web and bring up applications such as Twitter on their mobile phones (check out the demo). Sounds a lot like the functionality offered by my all-time favorite phone application, Vlingo, which prompted me to override the existing Nuance voice control on my BlackBerry. Read More about Move Over Touch: Voice Recognition Grows Up
Updated: On Monday, Qualcomm (s qcom) announced a location-based recommendation engine powered by Xiam, which it acquired last March. The service (offered through carriers) takes demographic information, a user’s personal preferences and geographic location, and serves up lists of places and events that the user might enjoy. For example, if I’m visiting San Francisco, my Xiam-equipped carrier could use my location to show me Indian restaurants (a favorite of mine) near my hotel from Yelp, or concerts I might like to hit based on my ringtones. Xiam combines my preferences and data consumption to build the recommendations. It also can be used to offer ads.
It works with any GPS chip and has open APIs, which means location providers such as Skyhook and local information services such as Yelp can work with the platform. Update: However, today’s launch of Google’s (s Goog) Latitude mobile social mapping service could end up competing with Xiam and its carrier customers by offering ads based on location as well. Still, this is Qualcomm’s effort to join companies like Apple (s aapl), which pioneered touch, and Nuance ( s nuan), which has pushed speech recognition, in improving the way we navigate mobile phones. Read More about Qualcomm’s Xiam Tells You Where It’s At
Nuance Communications (s NUAN) said today it’s bought several patents related to IBM’s (s IBM) speech recognition technology, joining Microsoft (s msft) as one of the two the largest licensors of such technology. IBM, Nuance and Microsoft all provide speech-to-text and voice recognition products, an industry that’s growing in importance as devices makers seek more intuitive user interfaces. Even Google (s GOOG) is trying to stake a claim in this sector by developing its own speech platform. But aside from consolidating the field, Nuance’s acquisition could end up causing speech-related startups some grief. Read More about Nuance Takes On Microsoft and Google With IBM Deal
Vlingo’s new software for BlackBerrys (the link goes live at 5 a.m. PT), which gives me the ability to navigate my phone entirely by voice, has me feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. I press a button on my Pearl, wait for a chime, simply say, “Web search, weather San Francisco,” and the browser opens and delivers me the weather in San Francisco. I can also use it to text and send emails to my contacts, though admittedly without the benefit of typing, punctuation is a problem.
As Om has pointed out, voice makes navigating phones easier, but the Vlingo application does eat up bandwidth. Regardless, the Vlingo software for BlackBerry devices is powered by the same speech recognition engine behind Yahoo’s oneSearch, the voice-enabled web search software that had me so excited I downloaded it in the middle of the keynote speech introducing it. Read More about I Talk, Vlingo Listens
When it comes to mobile phones, it’s all about touch screens — this year. But what will they look like in four or five years? I recognize that in 25 years they’ll be implanted into our bodies, à la Ray Kurzweil’s thesis, but how will we we improve upon them in the meantime?
Since Apple has scored the touch crown, Samsung is going hands-free. It’s filed for a patent to let your fingers do the talking — simply wave them in some predetermined way to, for example, pull up a phone number, navigate the web or play music. The patent is focused on how the phone’s camera is used to translate the hand signals and then deliver those instructions to the device for execution. For an example of how this could go wrong, think back to the movement-controlled radios in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (the book, not the movie).
If your fingers can’t walk the talk, then it’s up to voice. Nuance Communications along with an undisclosed OEM are playing around with a button-less phone that will be entirely voice-controlled. I love using speech instead of my hands, but since the Nuance-powered voice recognition on my BlackBerry Pearl consistently offers to call my friend Trudy every time I ask it to call Om, I’m a little concerned about how that will work. C’mon Nuance, I can see confusing Om with Home, but Trudy? I don’t get it.
So touch, talk or sign, when it comes to mobile phones, it’ll be whatever pushes your buttons.
Image courtesy of cellpassion.com
Now that the haze of exhaustion has worn off, I’m reviewing my notes from CTIA. Our cheat sheet was spot on — with the exception of an Android phone, that is. The same prototypes were available that folks saw in February at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, but there was no actual handset there with which to muck around.
Another disappointment was Sprint’s delay of the launch of Xohm until later this summer. Yet even despite the sense that LTE has gained the upper hand with existing carriers, plenty of vendors were showing WiMAX products. But really, the real news at CTIA this year was around the services that can be delivered over a mobile phone, not the phones or the networks on which those services will be accessed.
Speech recognition company Vligno has scored a $20 million second round of funding led by Yahoo, and through a relationship with the search company, access to 600 million cell phone subscribers worldwide. As I noted earlier, Yahoo said today it will use Vlingo to power the voice recognition for its oneSearch mobile search product.
“We like the technology so much we made sure our competitors can’t use it,” explained Marco Boerries, president of Yahoo Mobile. Boerries declined to say how much Yahoo put into Vlingo, but said the company had exclusive use of the technology for mobile search.
Hooking its star to Yahoo puts Vlingo in the same league as Microsoft — which offers mobile carriers speech recognition technology derived from its TellMe acquisition — and
singlespeech-focused search company Nuance Communications, which is cultivating carrier relationships as well.