Today, I’m moving onto voice control. That is, activating functions within smartphones using speech.
First, let’s quickly break down the two hands-down biggest players in this space. Then, I’ll show you the best way to cash in on the trend as it continues to build momentum in 2012.
Siri: Putting the “Smart” in Smartphone
Why has voice control technology created so much buzz lately?
One word: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). Specifically, since the company’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S, comes with Apple’s personal assistant application called Siri.
What makes this application a game-changer is its ability to process requests without having a designated list of commands. All you need to do is speak naturally and Siri can interpret your meaning and perform the task accordingly.
In other words, you don’t need to talk like a robot for Siri to work. It just gets it.
For instance, if you tell Siri, “I’m hungry,” it responds, “I’ve found a number of restaurants fairly close to you.” The app then lists the nearby restaurants.
Heck, Apple even programmed Siri with a sense of humor. Ask it, “Will you marry me?” and you get the response, “My end user licensing agreement does not cover marriage. My apologies.” Cute.
At the moment, Siri is still in beta-testing, so it gets stumped every now and then. But it’s definitely the strongest voice control application available today. That leads me to Apple’s closest competitor, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)…
Will Majel Reclaim the Throne for Google?
Google’s Android operating system was the first major smartphone platform to integrate voice control. But its offering is limited compared to Siri.
Sure, you can make a note, send a text message, or activate the navigation app. But the technology can’t function beyond basic commands.
So telling Android that you’re hungry just opens up a Google search for the term, “I’m hungry.” What a tease!
However, recent indications are that Google is gearing up to release a strong Siri competitor by early 2012. The program will apparently be called Majel – named after the actress best-known for the Star Trek computer voice.
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Nice touch. But without a finished application ready for the masses, it looks like Apple’s crown is secure as we move into 2012.
However, it doesn’t really matter which company provides the strongest voice application. This small Massachusetts-based company stands to benefit either way…
As Voice Recognition Goes Mobile, Nuance Will Go Higher
Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN) is a leading developer of software that helps machines recognize the human voice.
The company maintains a digital treasure trove of speech samples (the largest in the world, according to the company’s website), which helps its software understand exactly what users say. That makes sense, since a voice control app would be useless if it couldn’t interpret what a user is trying to communicate.
Nuance operates in three main segments:
~ Transcription services. This software lets you control computer applications and dictate emails.
~ Customer call centers. When you’re stuck on a customer service call talking to a machine, Nuance’s technology is translating what you’re saying for the automated system.
~ Mobile. More than five billion mobile phones already have Nuance’s technology baked in.
Currently, about 90% of the company’s revenue comes from its transcription services. But as voice control applications gain popularity, sales from its mobile segment are bound to rise in the coming months.
That’s why the company just scooped up its competitor in the space, Vlingo.
Word is Getting Out on Nuance
As Nuance’s Mike Thompson says, “Virtually every mobile and consumer electronics company on the planet is looking for ways to integrate natural, conversational voice interactions into their mobile products, applications, and services… By acquiring Vlingo, we are able to accelerate the pace of innovation to meet this demand.”
Nuance continues to solidify its position in the mobile market, too.
I’ve mentioned before that Nuance helps power Apple’s Siri. And the company’s co-founder, Mike Cohen, is Google’s manager of speech technology, too.
So as Apple and Google battle to develop the best speech platform, Nuance is sure to land on top, no matter what.
And considering that Nuance shares are up 11% since the last time I wrote about the company in mid October, it looks like other investors are beginning to realize its potential, too. Invest accordingly.