After Nuance's aggressive push to get its voice recognition technology in front of consumers via first-party apps, the company is taking a small turn and offering it to third party apps. The twist here is "Nina," which is Nuance's name for a suite of voice-powered "personal assistant" technologies it is hoping banks, insurance companies, and other large corporations will build into their apps.
We had a brief demo with the tech via an example banking app and the best way to think of it is pretty much what you'd guess based on a four-letter, female-named voice feature: Siri for apps. By offering an SDK and some development assistance to big-name companies, Nuance is essentially doing its best to ensure mobile users won't have to encounter phone trees again. Nina offers three main features: a biometric voice-unlock for logging in, Nuance's classic voice recognition, and natural language understanding that's contextually aware and able to lead a user through multiple steps.
The classic use case is a banking app, where a user could ask for a balance, or say something as complicated as "Pay $100 from my checking account into my credit card bill next Friday." Nina, like Siri, should be able to retain enough context to deal with natural language questions and walk a customer through relatively complicated queries. Nuance is also hoping that its customers will create full "personas," just like Siri, that have enough personality to make customers happy to interact with it — or at least happier than they are dealing with a phone support system, an admittedly low bar.
In our demo, the voice recognition worked as well as we've come to expect from Nuance, and Nina's voice, well, she sounded quite a lot like Siri. Nuance doesn't believe that Nina competes directly with Siri, but does owe Apple a small debt of gratitude for educating consumers on what a voice-powered personal assistant can do. Nuance says that Nina serves a different purpose than Siri and doesn't seem especially worried that Apple will extend Siri into this space anytime soon.
Nuance has the USAA, which provides financial services to the US military, signed on to work with the new feature and is now offering the same to other large institutions, but smaller developers need not apply. The company is specifically targeting the enterprise, though it's intending Nina to be used in customer-facing apps. Those enterprise customers can sign up with Nuance starting today, but pricing is going to be like so many things in the B2B space — handled on a case-by-case basis.