The advances in the field of speech recognition over the past couple of years have been huge. Since Microsoft began working with deep learning neural networks in 2009, huge improvements in the way algorithms can detect your dialogue have occurred. Since then, many other big names like Google and IBM have adopted the deep learning techniques, with dramatic improvements. But there’s once crucial name missing off that last- Apple. Their Siri product was the cornerstone of their IPhone 4S launch, but has been subject to widespread criticism since then due to its inaccuracy.
This week brought another crushing blow for Siri. They’re in the midst of a patent dispute with Zhizhen Network Technology in China, who claim Siri is overly-similar to their Xiao i Robot offering. Apple tried to have Xiao i Robot’s patent invalidated- a move which was rejected this week. Zhizhen are now trying to have blocked Siri-based Apple offerings in China, claiming the app infringes their rights.
“Apple believes deeply in protecting innovation, and we take intellectual property rights very seriously,” an Apple spokesman has stated. “Apple created Siri to provide customers with their own personal assistant by using their voice. Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen’s patent before we introduced Siri, and we do not believe we are using this patent. While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen.”
The news comes just weeks after Apple announced they would be moving Siri development in-house, and away from their currect outsourcing arrangement with Nuance Technologies. They’ll then be aiming to incorporate the cutting-edge deep learning techniques to Siri, with good reason. Introducing deep learning led to a 25% increase in accuracy (in a field where a an increase of a couple of percent is a breakthrough). Microsoft are now in the process of rolling out Skype Translate, a futuristic service which can translate your speech as you talk.
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Perhaps altering the makeup of their technology will aid Apple in their patent disputes. But considering highly-advanced deep learning technologies have been around for such a long time, it almost beggars belief that an innovative industry leader like Apple have only now decided to jump on the bandwagon.
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