Mysterious Apple office in Boston linked to voice tech

Apple has reportedly put some top voice-technology talent into its mysterious Boston office.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
Siri on iOS 7.
Siri on iOS 7. Apple

The story behind a rather mysterious Apple office that appeared in Boston's Kendall Square late last year has gotten a little more interesting.

According to a new report from Xconomy, Apple is using the office space there to bolster its speech technologies, primarily Siri -- the voice assistant software it's built into its portable devices since 2011.

Citing sources, the site says Apple has pulled together "a small team of notable names in speech technology," many of whom formerly worked for VoiceSignal Technologies. That company was acquired by voice-tech giant Nuance back in 2007. Apple relies on Nuance's technology for some of Siri's underpinnings, something Apple itself has never detailed but that was confirmed by Nuance's CEO back in May.

Apple's small, and rather incognito, offices in Kendall Square were spotted by the Boston Globe in January. The company already had a presence in the area, including sales offices, as well as retail stores on Boylston Street and in Cambridge, though the mysterious exterior and its proximity to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sparked extra curiosity.

Apple has increased the footprint of voice services in its products in recent years. Siri, a successor to the namesake company Apple acquired, launched alongside the iPhone 4S in 2011 and has spread to the iPod Touch and the iPad. The feature takes user commands and turns them into actions. That includes launching apps, creating reminders, and checking data from Web sources like Yelp, Yahoo, and Wolfram Alpha. Those queries are piped through Apple's servers then fed back to the device.

There have been hints that Apple intends to bring Siri over to its Macs as well. That includes the addition of voice dictation in the current version of OS X, a feature that will work offline in the upcoming version of the OS, dubbed Mavericks.