Star Performers: Nuance Advances Enterprise and Consumer Efforts
Nuance Communications was uncharacteristically quiet on the acquisitions front this year, with its only deal being the October purchase of Varolii, a provider of cloud-based solutions for automated outbound customer engagement via phone, email, and text messages. Perhaps the slowdown can be attributed to the fact that the speech megafirm is rumored to be on the sales block itself. The company has reportedly been in talks with Apple, Samsung, and several venture capital firms, according to The Wall Street Journal, but those rumors have not been confirmed.
The company did, however, continue to build on assets gained through previous acquisitions. With intellectual property acquired through PerSay and Loquendo, Nuance unveiled an updated voice biometrics platform for customer authentication services. The integrated platform is 50 percent more accurate and offers greater use of liveness detection, automated enrollment of suspected fraudsters, and the ability to enhance the quality of voiceprints.
Nuance in April added its Voice Print voice biometrics technology to the Dragon Mobile Assistant app. The authentication technology provides users with secure access to mobile devices. Just a few months earlier, it introduced its Dragon TV platform with voice biometrics–based authentication.
Nuance was also busy solidifying partnerships this year. The biggest was a worldwide, multiyear agreement between Oracle and Nuance Cloud Services to provide the speech recognition and synthesis that will be used in many Oracle applications, including some from Eloqua, RightNow, and Taleo, as well as Oracle's stable of enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, customer relationship management, and human capital management apps.
Other partnership deals saw Nuance's technology being added to smart TVs from Conexant, in-car apps from ZTE, mobile applications for the Vuzix smart glasses platform, Samsung Galaxy Gear and Galaxy Note devices, and PCs from Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and Toshiba.
Nuance also rolled out Nuance Cloud Services, a platform that provides virtual assistant capabilities that bring together speech recognition, artificial intelligence, voice biometrics, contextual dialogue, content delivery, and chat technologies. The platform bundles speech recognition and natural language understanding in contextual settings.
The company also improved the accuracy of its PowerScribe 360 and Dragon Dictate solutions and released its Dragon Drive connected car platform, combining voice, natural language understanding, and personal assistant capabilities. Dragon Drive Speech lets users speak to dictate text messages and email, access and control applications or services embedded in the vehicle or in the cloud, check the weather, search and navigate to points of interest, manage calendars, update social media status, and search for music in the car or streaming from connected radio services.
"Nuance is leading the speech industry on two major fronts: virtual agents that enable us to speak and listen to complex systems that integrate information from multiple sources, and speech technology that enables us to speak and listen to various devices, from smart phones to smart TVs and beyond," says Jim Larson, an independent speech consultant. "Eventually this technology will enable us to control the future Internet of Things."
Pop culture has been both a help and a hindrance to the perception of the speech industry, panelists contend.