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Cambridge-based VocalIQ aims to change ‘the way we talk to machines’ by making them talk more like humans

Apple has bought a new artificial intelligence-powered company that aims to make robots easier to speak to and could lead to improvements in its voice assistant, Siri.

VocalIQ, which is based in Cambridge, builds . And Apple is likely to have bought the company to improve Siri, its voice-controlled digital assistant.

“Traditional spoken dialogue interfaces are handcrafted, fragile and frustrating,” says VocalIQ’s website. “It is unrealistic to expect seven billion people to start talking to machines in a way mandated by a programmer. Dialogue systems need to learn how people speak, and not the other way round.”

VocalIQ says that its technology “harnesses the power of more than 10 years of academic research in natural language, belief tracking, decision making and message generation”. “Re-imagining the way that people interact with their devices has application across different market verticals - with enormous potential to revolutionise our interaction with machines,” its website said.

Apple has been working to make Siri more useful and better at understanding the needs of its owners. iOS 9, the most recent update to the iPhone and iPad operating system, brought new features to Siri that allowed it to suggest apps that it thinks its owner might be looking for, for instance.

The top five features in Apple's iOS 9

Eventually, the same technology is likely to come to all of Apple's line. Its CarPlay in-car entertainment technology can make use of Siri, for instance — and so might the rumoured Apple car.

Apple has been reported in the past to be hiring machine learning and artificial intelligence experts, in an attempt to help make Siri more clever and able to predict what humans are saying and might want. The company has been aggressively hiring experts including those from other companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, in addition to the VoiceIQ acquisition.