(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. acquired Voysis, an artificial intelligence startup that developed a platform for digital voice assistants to better understand people’s natural language.
Dublin, Ireland-based Voysis focused on improving digital assistants inside online shopping apps, so the software could respond more accurately to voice commands from users. A now-removed company webpage said the technology could narrow product search results by processing shopping phrases such as “I need a new LED TV” and “My budget is $1,000.” Voysis provided this AI to other companies to incorporate it into their own apps and voice assistants.
An Apple spokesman said the company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Voysis’s system taps into Wavenets, an AI-based method for creating more human-like computer speech that was first developed by Google’s DeepMind in 2016. Voysis co-founder Peter Cahill said in 2018 that his company managed to shrink its system to the point where, once the AI is trained, the software uses as little as 25 megabytes of memory -- about the same size as four Apple Music songs. That made it much easier to run on smartphones without an internet connection.
Apple could use the acquired know-how improve Siri’s understanding of natural language or to offer the Voysis platform to thousands of developers that already integrate with the Apple digital assistant. Apple has been the top buyer of AI startups in recent years and has a portfolio that already includes former startups including Turi, Xnor.ai, and Laserlike.
Voysis was founded in 2012 and sold its services to several companies. It also had offices in Edinburgh and Boston and got $8 million in venture funding from Polaris Partners in 2017.
The acquisition is the second Apple deal disclosed this week. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant also bought Dark Sky, a popular weather app for iPhones and iPads.