Dec 20 AT 4:14 PM Dustin Earley 35 Comments

Communication experts at Nuance acquire Vlingo to speed up innovation


In the relatively new natural language, voice-enabled virtual assistant industry, Nuance is an old player. Not only does the company provide their own voice-enabled software for multiple mobile platforms, they are the backbone behind Apple’s Siri. Clearly, Nuance saw the potential in natural voice powered applications before they were all the rage. But with today’s purchase of Vlingo based around the desire to speed up innovation and meet customer demand, they may have underestimated it.

Details of the deal were not made available to the public, but Nuance has acquired Vlingo. According to the press release in which the acquisition was announced, the deal was “fueled by unprecedented demand for intelligent voice interfaces that combine voice, language understanding and semantic processing.”

Nuance cites Siri, and of course their own Dragon Go!, as the inspiration behind the demand for voice-enabled software, saying that a $5 billion market opportunity has presented itself. Manufacturers and developers want voice-enabled actions in their products ranging from mobile phones to tablets, TVs, music players, cars, GPS devices and everything in-between.

This is the second big acquisition for Nuance in the past several months. Back in October, Nuance purchased Swype in order to further enhance their virtual input footprint. It’s very likely that by sometime next year, we could see an all new product from Nuance that includes the best features from Dragon Go!, Flex T9, Swype and Vlingo. Nuance will easily be one of the top companies to watch as next year unfolds. Especially with competition from Apple’s Siri and Google’s Majel.

Show Press Release
Nuance to acquire Vlingo

Burlington, Mass. — December 20, 2011 — Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) announced it has signed an agreement to acquire Vlingo, Inc. Fueled by unprecedented demand for intelligent voice interfaces that combine voice, language understanding and semantic processing, Nuance and Vlingo will combine their deep innovation and R&D expertise to deliver next-generation natural language interfaces across numerous markets and industries.

Consumer interest and demand for virtual assistant and voice-enabled capabilities have exploded in recent months, creating a $5 billion market opportunity that spans phones, tablets, cars, televisions, navigation devices, music players, PCs and more. Both Nuance and Vlingo see an unprecedented appetite for intelligent devices that understand the spoken word and deliver outcomes for consumers and professionals.

“Inspired by the introduction of services such as Apple’s Siri and our own Dragon Go!, 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,” said Mike Thompson, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Nuance Mobile. “By acquiring Vlingo, we are able to accelerate the pace of innovation to meet this demand.”

“Vlingo and Nuance have long shared a similar vision for the power and global proliferation of mobile voice and language understanding. As a result of our complementary research and development efforts, our companies are stronger together than alone. Our combined resources afford us the opportunity to better compete, and offer a powerful proposition to customers, partners and developers,” said Dave Grannan, CEO, Vlingo.

By harnessing the combined expertise in voice, language and multilingual capabilities, Nuance will be able to take advantage of the adoption of intelligent mobile assistants, where consumers, businesses, doctors and patients can engage in more human, natural interactions with devices and systems all over the world.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • breinhar

    I’m confused. I thought neuance was owned by apple.

    • mr 1338

      thats what i heard, too
      we will either see some of the SIri tech on our Androids or Vlingo aka nuance aka apple will remove the vlingo app from Android to tell people that andorid doesnt have voice recognition anymore…

      • stenzor

        But Google has its own voice recognition doesn’t it?

        • mr 1338

          yes, Google has had voice actions long before Vlingo and therefore longer than Siri
          this was rather meant as a joke to exaggerate Apples die-hard efforts to stop Android by using unfair methods rather that new innovations than an educated comment ;)

    • azswift

      Looks like Apple bought a company that used Nuance tech to build Siri.

      • Futureboy

        azswift put it nice and succinctly, but I was intrigued by this so I did a little digging.
        Here is more detail if anyone is interested:

        SRI International, a nonprofit scientific research institute, is responsible for creating, and spinning off both companies, Nuance (1994) and Siri (2007).
        In 2005, ScanSoft merged with/acquired Nuance and the combined company took the Nuance name.
        In 2010 Siri, Inc. launched the Siri personal assistant app for iOS.
        Two months later, Apple acquired Siri, Inc.
        Apple then baked the Siri personal assistant into the OS of the iPhone.
        The speech recognition portion of Siri is most likely being provided through an agreement with Nuance though the specifics of the deal is being kept quiet.

  • Martjn2

    Naaa just kidding
    Using your voice has become really popular :)

  • zyphbear

    I wonder how this might affect Vlingo and if they will start adding more features. Could be a great start to some good competition all around.

  • olentz

    Interesting, so Apple actually outsource part of Siri?

    • w9jds

      More like bought the company that made it then acted like they made it themselves, just so they could say people were infringing on their stuff.

  • Techrocket9

    At first I thought that this was an article about reducing lag in phone calls…

  • _AjD

    I’m still not sure if I want to be talking to my phone all of the time – not to belittle the tech behind it but it’s still not quite there yet. Typing/button pushing is still faster in most cases and in my opinion far less annoying than hearing people talking aloud to their phones

    • breinhar

      I find the only time I use Siri is when driving. Otherwise I feel like an idiot just talking to my phone. I also use it for lookin up info to win arguments. Ie what’s the tallest this or that?

  • Brook Marin

    i still love the whole chain:

    voice input to text message -> ( over the air ) -> text message to voice output (tts)… aka leave a voicemail….

  • Thomas Biard

    I love different input method options. I have fallen in love with Swype, but I still tap type sometimes and use voice input. Combine it all without having to change settings on the phone and you have an all around winner! Go Nuance!

    • azswift

      Nuance also does Omnipage Pro OCR. Pretty sure it handles handwriting and typed text. With this acquisition they could cover all types of input.

      Other than punch-cards.

      • Andy_jr

        Got any tips on the hottest punch-card companies?

  • Ironzey Lewis

    Ugh we are still in the age of “Apple makes and everyone else plays catchup” I haven’t used Siri so I could just be talking out of my ass. What’s the big deal? I can’t really see having a two way conversation with my phone.

    Why are we typing to our friends and talking to our phone? Seems backwards to me.

    • stenzor

      Yeah it’s way too hyped up.. The only time it’s useful is when you’re driving.. Other than that, unless you’re missing all your fingers, it’s much faster to just type

  • mikeytusa

    Majel will still be better. :)

  • Jimmy13

    I just hope they keep sharing swype with me ;)

  • HoLfElDeR

    Try Iris. it is Siri for andorid.vlingo is more complicated. Iris is more fun and simple

  • w9jds

    Every time I think of people talking to their phone, I think of when people say they have Intrapersonal skills instead of interpersonal skills lol.

  • ramenchef

    VLingo came with my phone but I never used it. I don’t really see this voice recognition thing being too big any time soon.

  • kinderdm

    I use Vlingo and enjoy it. Works pretty well most of the time. And I now on the iphone its what a lot of people use along with dragon go since Apple left older phones without any option for in car use.

  • beatrixasdfghjk.

    I used Dragon for a short while … Does anyone else feel really disconcerted talking to an inanimate object? :S

  • Lee Swanson

    Vlingo get’s me 80 percent of what I would need a voice assistant for. More integration with spotify would help

  • jamal adam

    Still a gimmick at the moment but eventually it will be something worthwhile and a good feature to have.

  • ihatefanboys

    i read it as NUANCE who created SIRI for APPLE bought VLINGO to make APPLE’s SIRI look like its INNOVATION when it actually isnt, and they need a company that had the superior app on ANDROID to provide that for them.

  • TBax

    It can only get better.

  • jimtravis

    Sounds like natural voice input will be one of the hot tech areas in 2012. I understand many are interested, and I respect that interest. I am a bit concerned if people using the voice input will limit its use when in public areas like restaurants, movie theater, and crowded buses / subways.

  • booyootoo

    I think voice input will be more prominent un our household equipment over the years.

    Guess vlingo is preparing themselves to take over the world. And incorporate their technology in all electronic devices.

  • vid500

    we are moving forword. I like it and can imagine what the future will bring with all the new technology. Amazing.

    • donger


  • jefflarkin

    Wow, this is a great acquisition for Nuance to get into the mobile market. As best as I can tell, Vlingo is the leader on android (speaking anecdotally, I have no data to back that) and Nuance is a clear leader in voice recognition on the desktop. This could really drive voice recognition on android ahead of Apple (sorry Google, your built-in stuff is lagging).