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Apple Moves Deeper Into Voice-Activated Search With Siri Buy
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 00:00

Apple Inc. has acquired Siri Inc. just a few months after the start-up’s voice-activated personal-assistant program launched in the App Store, an investor in San Jose-based Siri told VentureWire.

Terms of the deal, which gives Apple a bigger stake in voice-activated search technology, weren’t disclosed. Representatives from Apple and Siri weren’t immediately available for comment.

“The offer from Apple was of a scope and tenor that it was a no-brainer to accept it,” said Shawn Carolan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures and a board member at Siri since it raised a Series A round of venture capital in 2008.

Siri has raised at least $24 million from Menlo, Morgenthaler Ventures and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing Foundation. Siri is one of several venture-backed companies offering a product that hinges on speech recognition and voice commands. (See VentureWire’s story from earlier this month which profiles Sari and others in this space.)

After being released to fanfare in the iPhone App Store in February, the Siri personal assistant has caught a lot of attention. Siri’s free app is connected to a whole ecosystem of Web services and programming interfaces, and has the ability to activate other applications that reside on a smartphone.

A Siri user can simply say, “Tell my wife I’ll be 20 minutes late,” and Siri scours the user’s social networks, address books and other programs, finds the person tagged “wife,” converts the message to text, and sends it directly to her phone. Siri, which is a spin-out from Stanford Research Institute, uses speech recognition technology from Nuance Communications Inc., which is credited with paving the way for start-up companies and established tech giants targeting the growing market of mobile phone users, who are eager for more ways to communicate and find information while on the go without having to type commands on small screens.

But Siri has added a layer of artificial intelligence to create a downloadable personal-assistant program that purportedly gets smarter–and delivers better targeted search results–over time. The company has future plans to partner with manufacturers to bring its technology to cars, homes and spacecraft.

This is the second recent acquisition for Apple, which also acquired Intrinsity Inc., a venture capital-backed start-up whose chip technology has been used to boost the performance of cellphones and other products. Intrinsity raised about $55 million from investors including Adams Capital Management, Altitude Capital Partners, Goldman Sachs Ventures, Hillman Co. and Northwater Capital, according to VentureWire records.

 

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