Nuance Offers Virtual Assistance in the Cloud

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Nuance Communications in early January unveiled Nuance Cloud Services (NCS), a platform that provides virtual assistant capabilities that go beyond basic speech recognition, connecting consumers no matter where they are using artificial intelligence, voice biometrics, contextual dialogue, content delivery, and chat technologies.

The platform, which bundles speech recognition and natural language understanding in contextual settings, builds on Nuance's Dragon Dictation offering, which the company launched a little more than four years ago.

"For the first couple of years, the platform that we had was just a speech dictation platform, and all it was doing was processing audio and transcribing it into text and sending it back out," says Scott Taylor, vice president of product strategy at Nuance Mobile. "Over time, we started to add additional technologies and capabilities and new languages. We added text-to-speech as a hosted service as well. We started to create on that speech platform capabilities for different device types, optimized models for cars, etc. But it was still largely a speech platform."

Taylor says that more recently the company began developing new technologies that incorporate natural language understanding, intent, and content services integration, or, as he put it, "things that we call broader platform services."

Nuance has been hard at work deploying those services during the past 12 to 18 months, Taylor adds.

With the more powerful cloud service, manufacturers, developers, and carriers can create and customize mobile services on any device or platform in more than 40 available languages. Nuance Cloud Services already powers Dragon Mobile Assistant, Dragon Drive, Dragon TV, Dragon Assistant for Intel-powered devices, Dragon Voicemail-to-Text, and apps from the company's NDEV mobile developer program.

According to Nuance, there have been more than 10 billion transactions to date via Nuance's mobile cloud and more than 100 million people each month using some form of voice or personal assistant via NCS.

"It's important for the platform to have an understanding of the data and the kind of information that the user might be looking for," Taylor says. "A developer or OEM will typically write their client applications for their devices, and they would plug into Nuance Cloud Services platform to gain access to speech recognition, natural language understanding, and content services."

Nuance is deploying NCS in new consumer arenas as well. The company recently entered the PC market with its launch of Dragon Assistant designed for Intel RealSense technology, which provides a type of conversational personal assistant that works with a user's applications and Web sites. The technology is now offered on tablets and laptops from Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo and will also be available on Asus and Toshiba devices later this year.

Nuance has also expanded into the wearable devices market and unveiled Dragon Mobile Assistant and Nuance’s Swype keyboard for smartwatches.

"The great thing about NCS is that it's a multidevice platform. It's a multimodal platform," Taylor says. "It can support text input or speech input. It supports context awareness and other sensory input. It can figure out where the user is, what's on the screen, what the [user] last said. Those things can all provide this experience."

Taylor fully expects NCS to expand even further. "In my mind, we've already made a lot of progress with NCS, but in the future, that's where we will continue to grow," he says. "We're trying to capitalize on knowledge about the user, the situation, the history, [and] the context, and provide very relevant information and a relevant user experience given that information."

Taylor notes that the core of all of this is the intelligence in the system. "Being able to identify the user, knowing what kind of services are relevant—that intelligence is where we are investing a lot of our time and energy right now," he states.

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