Apple buys Novauris to fine-tune Siri, report says

Apple reportedly acquired the speech-recognition firm last year, but, like many of the iPhone maker's acquisitions, the deal was never announced.

Apple may have bought a company that spent more than a decade improving speech-recognition technologies.

Apple last year quietly acquired Novauris Technologies, a UK-based firm that was founded in 2002 and worked on speech-recognition that was both server-based and device-based, TechCrunch reported on Thursday. Neither Apple nor Novauris announced the deal, but TechCrunch said it called the Novauris offices on Thursday and confirmed the news.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the Novauris buy. We will update this story when we have more information.

Apple has been actively working on making Siri, a virtual personal assistant on its iOS mobile operating system, more effective at understanding and acting on commands. Siri, which debuted on the iPhone 4S back in 2011 , faces serious competition from other virtual assistant apps such as Google Now and Microsoft's newly unveiled Cortana .

Novauris' specialty was delivering voice-recognition services on-device, which allowed for faster responses to queries. Apple's Siri currently takes the query on-device, ships it out to Apple's servers, finds the answer, and then ships it back to the user's device. It's not clear whether Novauris' speech-recognition technologies might make their way to future Siri iterations.

According to TechCrunch, Novauris started working on the Siri team last fall. When TechCrunch called the Novauris offices, the company answered "Apple" and confirmed that it had been acquired last year by the tech giant.

As it has in the past, Apple wouldn't confirm that it did indeed acquire Novauris. The company only told TechCrunch that it periodically acquires "smaller technology companies," adding that it does not disclose "purpose or plans."

Apple shares are down .26 percent to $537.40 in early trading on Friday.

Featured Video

This Nokia virtual-reality camera costs $60,000

Good VR doesn't come cheap, as evidenced by Nokia's Ozo 360-degree video camera. Meanwhile, Swatch's next smartwatch has mobile payments, and Blocks lets you build your own smartwatch.

by Bridget Carey