Apple beefing up Siri, speech and language teams with wave of new openings

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Apple on Wednesday and Thursday opened up several job listings related to speech technology, Siri, and language recognition, suggesting intensified work on natural input for future products, AppleInsider has discovered.

The Siri positions, posted on Thursday, include a platform development manager and a developer tools engineer. The former will "lead a team that builds the foundation for Siri," according to Apple, while the latter will work on internal tools for "collaborative design, development, testing, and tracking."

The company is also searching for two pattern recognition engineers, both of whom must have "exceptional experience developing modern handwriting or speech recognition solutions." Perhaps most significant are five openings for software engineers in the company's Natural Languages Group. These openings are primarily centered around text features like auto-correction and parts-of-speech tagging, but the NLG is also dedicated to areas such as input method conversion "and other solutions that incorporate natural language information."

In some cases, candidates for the NLG openings must be familiar with multiple languages. One of them is specifically oriented towards Chinese, and asks for someone who can help improve Chinese text input and language recognition in general.

While Apple periodically hires people in these areas, it's unusual for the company to post this number of related listings within the space of two days.

Voice technology is becoming increasingly important to Apple. Siri is present on every current iOS device, and could eventually come to OS X. Since it lacks screen space for features like a keyboard, the Apple Watch is highly dependent on voice — dictation is needed to send texts, and Siri can simplify many actions.

The company may also want to smooth out the rough edges of iOS and OS X's text input systems. Two common complaints are that Apple's software can sometimes auto-correct to the wrong word, and that suggested words in the iOS 8 keyboard can be off the mark.

Chinese characters have been a long-running concern, as while typed pinyin Chinese is an option, handwriting has proved hard to make quick and accurate.