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Monday, August 06, 2012, 06:57 am PT (09:57 am ET)

Nuance's Nina to enable iOS apps to authenticate users by the sound of their voice

The somewhat tedious process of logging into applications on Apple's iOS devices using the on-screen keyboard may soon become a thing of the past thanks to a new software platform from Nuance that promises to allow app makers to authenticate a user by the sound of their voice and much, much more.

The voice technology firm behind the Dragon Naturally Speaking line of voice applications for personal computers and the Dragon Dictation software built into iPhones on Monday announced Nina — a virtual assistant for mobile customer service apps the will allow companies to quickly add speech-based virtual assistant capabilities to their existing iOS and Android apps.

Expanding beyond the basic capabilities of the Siri personal assistant found in the current version of iOS, Nina bills itself as the first virtual assistant to incorporate both speech recognition and voice biometrics into a single integrated solution. And unlike Siri, which is presently compatible only with Apple's own iOS apps, it will be made available to all developers through an open software developer kit (SDK).

It works by combining Nuance speech recognition, Text-to-Speech (TTS), voice biometrics, and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology into a single cloud-based service that not only understands what is said, but also can identify who is saying it.

The company is targeting the platform at customer service companies like banks and insurance agencies, whose applications can be updated to allow customers to log into their accounts, transfer funds, pay bills, reschedule flights and so forth using only spoken commands. It even promises to allow these companies to tailor their own "virtual assistant persona," including the visual appearance and implementation of custom TTS voices.


A demo video showing Nina in action


The USAA, a leading financial services provider that serves members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families, will be the first to adopt the virtual assistant for use within its popular mobile app beginning with a pilot planned for release sometime this month. It will be followed by a formal launch to all USAA members early next year.


Some additional examples showing Nina in action


Nuance says that Nina is currently available to developers in the US, UK, and Australia (English), with support for additional languages scheduled for later this year. iOS and Android app developers seeking additional details on the technology can turn to Nuance's Nina page for more information.