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Siri, Meet Nouvaris: Apple Confirms Purchase of Speech Recognition Firm

Microsoft’s newly revealed Cortana virtual assistant for Windows Phone 8.1 does some neat things that Apple’s Siri can’t, but that could change soon. Amidst this week’s Cortana buzz, Apple has acquired a speech recognition company called Novauris Technologies, which could play a major part in improving Siri for future versions of iOS.

Apple confirmed its acquisition of the U.K. company to TechCrunch, though no specifics of the deal were mentioned. Novauris consists of former team members of Dragon Systems, the company behind popular speech recognition apps like Dragon Dictate. The British group hasn’t made an official comment, but it did confirm to TechCrunch that it is now a part of Apple and no longer working as an independent company.

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Apple’s pickup of Novauris seems rather conveniently timed, as Microsoft’s reveal of Cortana made some waves when it debuted on April 2 at the company’s Build developer conference. Cortana and Siri share many similarities, such as the ability to check the weather or set an alarm with your voice.

However, Micro soft’s “Halo”-inspired virtual assistant stands out by being able to perform specific app functions, such as setting up a Skype call with voice commands alone. Cortana also gets to know you over time, keeping your favorite restaurants, sports teams and friends and family members in her “notebook.”

Siri made its debut on the iPhone 4s and gained some new improvements for iOS 7, including a wider range of information sources and the ability to play back voicemails. While we’re not sure if Apple will mimic some of Cortana’s exclusive features, it’s almost certain that the company will use its new resources to make a smarter Siri, perhaps in time for iOS 8.

Cortana is powered by Bing, and the assistant uses your voice searches to store your preferences in categories like sports, food, travel and weather inside of her "notebook." This allows the app to give you more personalized results as you continue to use it.

— Michael Andronico, LAPTOP