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Apple has bought a U.K.-based artificial intelligence startup called VocalIQ, whose technology might eventually make Siri more conversational and smarter.

VocalIQ’s software helps computers and people speak to each other in a more natural way, said a report from Financial Times, citing people familiar with the deal. The startup’s technology uses deep learning to understand the context in which words are spoken.

The Cambridge-based company sells its natural language database as a service to app developers, who can use VocalIQ as the personal assistant in their apps. The platform then stores and learns from all communication from app users to provide more intelligent and relevant answers in the future.

VocalIQ, which was spun out of Dialogue Systems Group at Cambridge, lists as investors Amadeus Capital Partners and Cambridge Enterprise.

Apple has been baking its Siri personal assistant technology into more and more of its products, especially mobile ones, where manual command input is difficult. The Apple Watch and Apple TV in particular rely heavily on Siri and voice input to understand what the user wants to do.

Apple isn’t the only tech giant thinking about the development of ever-smarter personal assistants. Facebook early this year acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator-backed startup that enables developers to add natural language processing to apps.


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