Amazon bought speech recognition firm Yap in September, according to a report by The Atlantic (via AppleInsider), suggesting the retailing giant increasingly fancies itself a technology company. Yap was a privately held company whose inaugural service, a voicemail—to-text service—was still in beta, and it’s not yet known what Amazon intends to do with the technology.
For instance, Amazon could be looking to add some form of Siri-like voice controls to its $199 tablet, the Kindle Fire, which ships on November 15th. On the other hand, the company could be looking at ways to enable voice-activated shopping for its enormous online retail operations. The company could conceivably do so through telephone, through an app for its tablet or other devices, directly in its tablet, or even through a browser.
On the other hand, the company could be looking at entering the e-mail space with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo! and umpteen gillion other companies, and sees an opportunity to allow users to manage their e-mail through voice. The same could be said for having its own voicemail service, though that seems unlikely.
Whatever the case, we don’t yet know what Amazon plans to do with this technology. In fact, we don’t technically know that Amazon even bought it. In an SEC filing, Yap reported that it had been bought, but the company specified as the buyer is called “Dion Acquisition Sub.” The Atlantic did some digging, however, and found that Dion Acquisition Sub is headquartered in a building that’s actually owned by Amazon.
If Amazon is planning to go toe-to-toe with Apple in voice controls, it will also be going up against Google, which was the leader in voice controls in its Android platform before the release of Apple’s Siri, Apple itself, and Nuance, which owns quite a few key patents in voice recognition.
What seems most likely, however, is that Amazon is looking to harness voice recognition in its ever-expanding online retailing empire. If that’s the case, the company really wouldn’t be on a tract that would pit it against true technology companies like Apple, Google, and Nuance.
Terms of the Yap deal aren’t known.