Apple iOS 5 Leveraging Siri, Polar Rose vs. Android

Apple is reportedly set to unleash virtual-assistant technology from Siri and facial-recognition software from Polar Rose into iOS 5 to better compete with Android.

Crucial acquisitions Apple made in virtual-assistant and facial-recognition technologies to help its iPhone better compete with Google Android handsets are coming to fruition in the next version of iOS.

Apple is reportedly adding virtual-assistant technology from Siri and facial-recognition software from Polar Rose into iOS 5, according to the 9-to-5 Mac blog.

Both technologies pose an interesting challenge to Android smartphones, for which Google has provided rudimentary virtual-assistant technology but has yet to use facial recognition to fortify the user experience.

As 9-to-5 Mac noted, one of the advantages Android has over iOS is the Voice Actions technology, which lets users speak specific commands into their smartphones to browse the Web, send texts and make calls.

Siri was working on such capabilities and more, including allowing users to book a restaurant reservation or reserve a taxi, before it was acquired by Apple in April 2010.

Siri, in conjunction with Apple's partnership with speech-recognition specialist Nuance Communications, could be used to provide voice navigation, voice control and voice assistance to iOS 5, which is reportedly launching on the iPhone 5 this fall.

Speech data collected via Nuance and Siri on iOS 5 will be crowd-sourced, and Apple will let users send their data to Apple so they can improve the service over time. This idea would be similar to how Google collected words from its Google-411 directory service to improve speech recognition.

Moreover, the blog said Apple plans to open up facial recognition it gained from its September 2010 purchase of Polar Rose as a public developer API for iOS 5 applications.

The idea is to let programmers cultivate facial recognition in their own applications for Apple's iTunes App Store. The move is a cagey way to dodge some of the privacy heat Apple would no doubt face if it launched a standalone facial-recognition application on iOS 5.

Google has deliberately avoided a similar fate by keeping facial recognition out of its Google Goggles visual-search software on Android phones.

The search giant did, however, just acquire facial-recognition provider PittPatt, whose algorithms could be used in Android applications or even to improve photo suggestions in the new Google+ social network.

Facebook is feeling the heat from incorporating facial recognition to improve photo tagging.