Samsung Electronics is reportedly in talks with Nuance, the voice recognition company whose tech helped power Siri, about a possible acquisition, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Burlington, Mass.-based company is one of the biggest providers of voice-powered technology, available on desktop computers, mobile phones, TVs, and even GPS devices.
Samsung already uses Nuance’s voice and language recognition technologies in a number of its own devices, including phones, TVs and tablets, but Nuance last September said it would also power Samsung’s new set of wearable devices.
In an interview for ReadWrite a few months ago, Nuance CMO Peter Mahoney said the company has been working on the capabilities of its virtual assistants to “communicate with humans more fluidly.”
“Dialogue is really important,” Mahoney said. “In the original systems that came out, it operated like a search engine. You say something and something comes back, but it may or may not be the right thing. But that’s not how humans work. Humans disambiguate. We clarify.”
Nuance is working on improving its personal assistants to better approximate human behavior, which means pushing its own systems to store more data and consider more contextual information before making decisions. Mahoney also said Nuance is pushing its personal assistants to learn relationships, classifications and genres — and even remember previous conversations — to serve as more proactive recommendation engines.
“A human who is thoughtful understands your needs, wants and desires—he or she understands you and can contextualize that,” Mahoney said. “One of the things you talk about is having all the information. The more online information and the more great services out there that exist, the more we’ll be able to connect our intelligent systems that can understand everything that’s going on.”
In addition to its software, Nuance also offers a treasure trove of valuable voice-related patents, some of which were picked up from acquisitions. For example, Nuance owns patents for IBM’s speech technology and the popular predictive text technology known as T9.
Nuance, which lists Carl Icahn as its biggest shareholder with 19% of the company, also serves several other large customers including Nintendo, Panasonic and car manufacturer Daimler AG. Before The Wall Street Journal’s report broke, Nuance had a market capitalization of roughly $5.5 billion.