Nuance buys Vlingo virtual assistant, takes out would-be Siri rival

Nuance Communications, Inc. 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, in the press release. “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, in the press release.

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.

About Vlingo

Vlingo is a Virtual Assistant that turns your words into action by combining voice to text technology, natural language processing, and Vlingo’s Intent Engine to understand the user’s intent and take the appropriate action. Founded in 2006, Vlingo is backed by Charles River Ventures, Sigma Partners, Yahoo! and AT&T and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

About Nuance Communications, Inc.

Nuance is a leading provider of voice and language solutions for businesses and consumers around the world. Its technologies, applications and services make the user experience more compelling by transforming the way people interact with information and how they create, share and use documents. Every day, millions of users and thousands of businesses experience Nuance’s proven applications and professional services.

Source: Nuance Communications, Inc.


  1. It sounds to me like this is the creation of a SIRI rival. I believe the Nuance part of SIRI is limited and Nuance has every interest in capitalizing on Apple competitors who want voice recognition.

  2. That’s so weird — I just installed Vlingo on my iPhone 4 this past weekend and I was shocked at how horrible it is. For instance, I have two contacts with the same first name — and no matter what I do, Vlingo will not learn and aways tries to compose an email to the wrong person! Useless app. I gave it a 1-star review on the App Store.

    1. Vlingo works near flawlessly for me on iPhone. Not sure what you expect if contacts have the same name. Do you want it to read your mind? Sometimes times you have to do a little custom changes for name recognition. Pronunciation and spelling of names is a very tricky thing due to all of the variations and subtle differences. Sometime it makes sense when these apps struggle with difficult names and sometimes it boggles the mind when they struggle with rather simple names. Rather than right off the app entirely, just change a few things in your contact to get it to work properly. For example my wife goes by Andi but Siri and Vlingo struggle with it so I changed her contact to Andy. I have a rep named Teako which is not a very common name so I changed the spelling in my contacts to a more phonetic spelling. You can also actually add phonetic spellings in your contact app on IPhone or just use a simple nickname for any hard to recognize names that Vlingo or Siri struggle with. You have to realize that these apps work 90 to 99% of the time when used correctly and can be an incredible tool for productivity and hands free use. But they aren’t yet perfect and probably will never be. Is your typing perfect and typo free? Mine isn’t for sure. These apps are also sometimes sensitive to background noise, accents, and rate and clearness of speech. Both Siri and Vlingo can handle a pretty significant amount of background noise and a fairly rapid rate of natural speech vs. most of their current and previous predesessors. Still many people expect them to recognize their strong accents, rapid or mumbling speech, and tons of background noise. Same as a human may struggle to understand every word in these circumstances, even the best voice recognition app will at times struggle as well.

    1. There is no need to, Siri is far superior. There are advantages to having comparible products on the market especially if they are not as good. If not, you would run into violations in many countries that require competition and viable alternatives even if they suck.

        1. According to Siri’s founders/creators the voice recognition aspect of Siri was designed to be modularised. Any speech to text/text to speech software can be plugged into Siri.

  3. “When the hell is Apple going to buy Nuance before somebody else does?”

    Maybe, sometimes it is better business strategy to leave the situation alone. Nuance, with Dragon Speak seems to be the clear No. 2, in voice recognition and development of artificial intelligence…although they are behind Apple and obviously inferior.

    Leaving a strong No. 2 out there that is inferior can be to the advantage of a clear No. 1.

    That way, the “clear choice” for consumers, and ultimate market share remains stongly for No. 1

    1. But Siri REQUIRES Nuance. Nuance doesn’t need Siri. This is bad. If Nuance decides they want more money from Apple to license the VR, then Apple is forced to pay whatever they demand or obtain an inferior VR register. This is definitely bad news for Apple.

  4. Personally, I would welcome some genuine competition for Apple products. Everyone would benefit. What we have now is a non-stop flood of second-and-third-rate copies of every new innovation from the mind of Apple. Definitely boring.

  5. Let’s clear up a few things. Siri is comprised of two components: speech recognition and artificial intelligence.

    The speech recognition component of Siri is done by Nuance.

    Vlingo is an application that provides a crude natural language processing (much lower IQ on that artificial intelligence). Therefore, Nuance is now trying to improve Vlingo (especially the Android version) by using its own speech recognition, which is much more accurate than Google’s own on Android. As for iOS, I’m not sure how much difference there will be for the Vlingo app, since it is only attractive to the pre-4S users.


    Nuance owns Dragon who have the only decent commercial voice recognition system going.

    Siri REQUIRES Dragon (Nuance) in order to work properly. Apple had to contract a deal with Nuance in order to bring out the current version of Siri.

    THEREFORE: What if Nuance pulls the rug out from under Apple, disabling Siri?

    Vague prediction: Anti-monopoly lawsuits over Dragon (Nuance). Humph. I seriously hope Nuance simply compete via Vlingo rather than hobbling Siri in order to kill competition.

    BTW: Siri is better tech than Vlingo. I’ve used both. So Apple does have quite a head start.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.