According to The Information, the acquisition, which was confirmed by Apple, closed late last year but was just discovered recently. Laserlike’s staff has also reportedly joined Apple’s Siri team, reporting to Senior VP John Giannandrea.
Laserlike used machine learning to gather information from across the web and deliver user-specific results to an eponymous app. The results could be searched through like news and shared via an in-app “inbox,” with the technology even able to recommend other sites based on a user’s browsing habits.
This is Apple’s latest move to try to give its voice assistant a boost. Despite making some major improvements in late 2018, Siri still lags behind its competition. Amazon leads the voice-activated speaker market thanks to Alexa and her skills, while Google Assistant takes the second place spot, relegating Siri to third place.
In fact, even Siri’s creator, Norman Winarsky, said in an interview last year that he believes the tool has come up short, especially since he had a different vision for it. Siri’s founders saw Siri as a sort of concierge that would automatically rebook cancelled flights and book a hotel room if need be. But Apple took a broader approach, using the voice assistant for a variety of purposes, which meant the technology was harder to develop — and get right. As a result, Siri sometimes has trouble with spoken requests, and its usage is reportedly declining.
In order to better compete and boost Siri’s performance, Apple recently hired AI exec John Giannandrea away from Google and promoted him to its executive team, where he now reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. And just last month the company acquired PullString, a San Francisco maker of technology that enables people to design and publish voice-activated apps.