Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Nuance’s Nina Platform Adds Speech Interface to Corporate Mobile Apps

If you’ve ever wanted to talk to the mobile banking application on your iPhone or Android device, you soon may get the chance. Nuance, the voice technology company best known for its Dragon Naturally Speaking line of voice applications for personal computers and Dragon Dictation on the iPhone, today announced Nina, a voice platform that’s aimed at enhancing customer-service applications with a Siri-like voice-control interface.

AllThingsD got a demo of the technology last week. It basically brings together what Nuance does well: Speech recognition, text-to-speech, natural-language understanding and voice-ID biometric technology. It has rolled all of these into a hosted, cloud-based service that can be used by banks, insurance companies and other business who make customer service and account-access applications, which can now add all these features into their applications.

Nuance’s approach is to offer a prebuilt Nina virtual-assistant “persona,” a software developers kit and a set of APIs that companies can use to make these applications easier to use. If you can use Siri, then you’ll know what to do with Nina-enabled applications. You’ll be able to use it to pay bills, transfer money between accounts, and other basic things like that.

But here’s a key feature you might not expect: Nina can also use your voice to authenticate you. As part of our demo, we handed the phone around the room and tried to sign in to the demonstration banking app — only one of us could. If nothing else, adding a voice-based biometric option to banking apps would seem to improve the security of a mobile banking app, if only because sufficiently complicated passwords are hard to remember.

An early customer is USAA, a financial services company whose primary customers are U.S. military service members and veterans. Nuance has plans to offer the technology for use in travel, insurance, retail and government apps, as well.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus