Nuance debuts 'Nina,' a voice-recognition mobile assistant

Talking to your smartphone just got easier
Nuance's Nina combines voice recognition and identification into a single SDK

It's one thing to have your smartphone be able to understand commands and instructions – Apple's Siri, in a nutshell.

However, it's something entirely different to have your phone actually recognize the person speaking to it.

That's just one of the features promised by Nuance Communications' "Nina," a "virtual assistant for mobile customer service apps" that's now being offered as an SDK for both Android and Apple developers to incorporate into their own products.

By combining Nuance's speech recognition with text-to-speech, voice biometrics, and natural language understanding – reads Nuance's statement – Nina is the first such voice recognition app that places as much of an emphasis on understanding the speaker as what's actually being said.

"Nina is a watershed innovation for the automated customer service industry, not only because it brings the virtual assistant directly into an app, but because it raises the bar through its level of interactive dialog and language understanding," said Nuance Enterprise Division executive vice president Robert Weideman in a statement.

Talking to Nina

Nina works in a manner quite similar to other voice recognition apps, in that it requires a network connection to function – Nina dials up to the cloud (technically, the "Nina Virtual Assistant Cloud") in order to parse what is spoken to it.

Additionally, by focusing on natural language navigation within Nina, Nuance looks to free users from having to memorize a common plate of words or phrases – trigger words, recognized by voice-recognition apps and used to process commands – and instead allow users to tell an app what they want to do in however way they want to phrase it.

Although current Nina demonstrations showcase the app's generic female voice, developers will be able to select from 40 different voices for their final Nina integration – or integrate their own voice personas if they so choose.

Where are the apps?

Android and iOS users can expect to see the first chunk of Nina-powered apps hitting their various digital marketplaces by the fall.

However, Nuance has partnered up with USAA to release a Nina-powered test version of USAA's mobile app later this month.

A full release of the Nina-powered USAA app is expected to hit at some point early next year.