Nuance is an American based multinational computer software technology
corporation, headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, United States
on the outskirts of Boston, that provides speech and imaging
applications. Current business products focus on server and embedded
speech recognition, telephone call steering systems, automated
telephone directory services, medical transcription software and
systems, optical character recognition software, and desktop imaging
software. The company also maintains a small division which does
software and system development for military and government agencies.
Nuance merged with its competitor in the commercial large-scale speech
application business, ScanSoft, in October 2005. ScanSoft was a Xerox
spin-off that was bought in 1999 by Visioneer, a hardware and software
scanner company, which adopted ScanSoft as the new merged company
name. The original ScanSoft had its roots in Kurzweil Computer
Products, a software company that developed the first omni-font
character recognition system.
1.1 ScanSoft origins
1.2 Nuance history prior to the 2005 merger with ScanSoft
1.2.1 Partnership with the
Siri and Apple Inc.
1.2.2 Telephony application process
1.2.3 Recognizer process
1.4.1 ScanSoft acquisitions prior to the merger
2 List of countries with English speaking TTS voices
3 List of other countries with TTS voices
3.1 ScanSoft merges with Nuance; changes company-wide name to "Nuance
3.2 Nuance acquisitions after merger
5 External links
In September 2005, ScanSoft Inc. acquired and merged with Nuance
Communications, and the resulting company adopted the Nuance name. For
a decade prior to that, the two companies competed in the commercial
large-scale speech application business.
Raymond Kurzweil founded the Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.
to develop the first omni-font optical character-recognition
system—a computer program capable of recognizing text written in any
normal font. In 1980, Kurzweil sold his company to Xerox. The
company became known as
Xerox Imaging Systems (XIS), and later
In March 1992, a new company called Visioneer, Inc. was founded to
develop scanner hardware and software products, such as a sheetfed
scanner called PaperMax and the document management software
Visioneer eventually sold its hardware division to Primax
Electronics, Ltd. in January 1999. Two months later, in March,
Visioneer acquired ScanSoft from
Xerox to form a new public company
with ScanSoft as the new company-wide name.
Prior to 2001, ScanSoft focused primarily on desktop imaging software
such as TextBridge,
PaperPort and OmniPage. Beginning with the
December 2001 acquisition of Lernout & Hauspie, the company moved
into the speech recognition business and began to compete with
Nuance history prior to the 2005 merger with ScanSoft
Nuance was founded in 1994 as a spin-off of SRI International's Speech
Technology and Research (STAR) Laboratory to commercialize the
speaker-independent speech recognition technology developed for the US
government at SRI. Based in Menlo Park, California, Nuance deployed
their first commercial large-scale speech application in 1996. Their
initial route to market was through call center automation. Call
centers had just centralized the branch-office telephone handling
function throughout many large companies. The highest cost of running
call centers is the cost of staff. Early projects were completely
developed by Nuance to prove the commercial practicality and
Early Nuance applications ran on Windows NT-based and Solaris
operating systems, and commonly relied on Dialogic boards for the
telephony hardware.
In 1994, Nuance was spun off from SRI's STAR Lab. Two years later,
Nuance deployed its first commercial speech application. On 13 April
2000, Nuance filed an initial public offering (IPO) on the NASDAQ
under the symbol NUAN. On 15 November 2000, Nuance acquired
SpeechFront voice instant messaging company for $10.5 million in cash
and stock.
In simple terms, the technology produced allowed a computer to
determine what a speaker was saying within a specific and limited
vocabulary of phrases. Its key advantage over technologies such as
ViaVoice was that the system did not need training for the specific
speaker. This permitted the use of the system, so-called
speaker-independent natural-language speech recognition (abbreviated
as SI-NLSR or just NLSR), for call automation.
The limited vocabulary was typically a few thousand different
variations of phrases. In complex systems this could be in the low
millions. At the time, these systems were pushing the limits of
computer processing power in commodity
Intel x86 servers until the
early 2000s.
During the late 1990s and into the 2000s, Nuance competed against
other NLSR vendors including
other smaller players which were typically geographically focused such
as Vocalis in the UK which used proprietary PCI cards with DSPs on
board to improve the efficiency and density of the system.[citation
Each speech-recognition engine provider had to determine how to
convert written text into sounds. Determining how written text is
spoken is a hugely challenging task in itself. Languages are
"modeled", samples of real spoken language is recorded and analyzed to
create a language model. The higher the quality the language model the
better the experience of the user, especially in complex interactions.
Different language models were required for different dialects such as
Flemish being a variant of Dutch, or Swiss German being a dialect of
High German. Different models were also created for different
qualities of telephone connection. Europe's
Philips had by far the
largest language coverage, which included
Flemish and Welsh.[citation
Later, Nuance sold licenses (training and consulting) to their
technology to third parties, including independent software vendors
and interactive voice response (IVR) vendors who would build
applications on top of an IVR platform.
SpeechWorks on the other hand
would typically deliver the application with the technology or with a
group of key delivery partners. The technology was integrated into
most of the leading IVR products from Avaya, Nortel Periphonics,
Envox, Syntellect and many others. The requirements of telephony
reliability meant many of these solutions ran on various versions of
Nuance 7 was launched in the late 1990s and was an efficient
network-distributed NLSR speech recognition solution; it ran on Unix
and Windows. Nuance 8 added Statistical Language Modeling, an adaption
of technologies used in technologies, such as
ViaVoice to improve the
range of phrases that the system could recognize at the expense of
greater implementation cost and complexity. Nuance 8.x series also
introduced the W3C vocabulary definition language GrXML in addition to
and eventual replacement of Nuance's proprietary and very concise
Grammar Specification Language, GSL.
Nuance 8.5 was the last point release before the takeover by ScanSoft.
These systems were significantly different from the technology used in
consumer speech recognition products such as ViaVoice, which is now
also a Nuance product.
While Nuance marketed their technology at call-center exhibitions,
they rarely delivered solutions directly. Instead, Nuance relied on
telecommunications partners, such as Nortel Periphonics, Avaya and
Syntellect. Nuance realized that designing and developing speech-based
solutions requires a different skill set and to that of traditional
DTMF solutions.
For a couple of years prior to the takeover by ScanSoft, Nuance
started selling products directly, including their call-routing
product ("Call Steering"), which determined the "skill group" required
for the call based on responses to reasonably open questions asked of
the caller.
Nuance 9.0 is the first release (excluding service packs) of the
recognizer product since the acquisition and is an amalgam of the
technologies acquired from various companies including
Pearl, Speechworks, Nuance Recognizer and others.
Partnership with the
Siri and Apple Inc.
Siri is an application that combines speech recognition with advanced
natural-language processing. The artificial intelligence, which
required both advances in the underlying algorithms and leaps in
processing power both on mobile devices and the servers that share the
workload, allows software to understand words and their intentions.
Telephony application process
User invokes the telephony application for call automation
Application loads the phrases for the application and prompts the user
to ask a question, opening a stream from the telephony input to the
speech recognition software.
User speaks and this is streamed to the recognizer.
Recognizer returns a number of potential results with probability for
each one that it is correct.
Determines the start of speech input
uses audio techniques to remove background noise
slices the audio into small sections (10 to 100 ms in length)
determines the sound in each slice
matches the combination of sounds for the spoken phrase with the
possible sound combinations provided by the possible phrases[citation
A typical Nuance recognizer configuration required four or five
applications to be started, often monitored by a sixth application.
NLM: Nuance License Manager: kept a watch on the number of concurrent
speech calls in use.
Nrecclient: recognition client: it is the interface between the IVR
speech path and the speech recognizing software, the recserver. The
recclient can be developed into the IVR software.
Nresource-manager: distributes the load over the recservers as
required to balance load and to provide fault-tolerance.
Nrecserver: where the speech is compared and processed against known
Ngrammar-compiler: an application that dynamically adds words or
phrases to an expected vocabulary for recognition.
Nwatchdog: a Windows service or Unix daemon that monitors and
maintains the above processes, restarting them if required.
Except for the watchdog which should be running on all the nuance
speech servers, the other processes may be spread over a farm of
servers, connected by an IP network with low latency and
high-bandwidth, usually a dedicated LAN segment. The resource manager
directs which resources it thinks are least utilized.
Prior to the 2005 merger, ScanSoft acquired other companies to expand
its business. Unlike ScanSoft, Nuance did not actively acquire
companies prior to their merger. After the merge, the company
continued to grow through acquisition.
ScanSoft acquisitions prior to the merger
March 2000 – Caere Corp., of
Los Gatos, California
Los Gatos, California – $145 million.
Caere had developed
OmniPage (scanner and OCR software.)
December 2001 – Lernout & Hauspie, of Ieper, Belgium, Speech and
Language division – $39.5 million
This acquisition occurred following Lernout & Hauspie's bankruptcy
proceedings. Previously, Lernout & Hauspie had acquired these
speech technology companies: BBS, Berkeley Speech Technologies (1996),
Centigram Communications Corporation,
Dragon Systems (2000), FDC, and
Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (1998).
January 30, 2003 — Royal
Philips Electronics Speech Processing
Telephony and Voice Control, Dialogue Systems — $35.4 million
Philips had previously acquired Voice Control Systems, which had in
turn had acquired Pure Speech, Scott Instruments and VPC.
August 11, 2003 — SpeechWorks, Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts, —
SpeechWorks' major products were speech recognition and synthesis
systems, which were later merged with Nuance's speech product line. It
had previously acquired Eloquent Technologies, Inc., of Ithaca, New
York in 2000 for $17 million and T-Netix.
January 2004 — LocusDialog, of Montreal, Quebec
May 2004 — Telelogue, Inc., of
Iselin, New Jersey
Iselin, New Jersey — $5.4 million
November 2004 — ART Advanced Recognition Technologies, Ltd., of Tel
Israel – $21.5 million
November 2004 — Rhetorical Systems Ltd., of
Scotland — $6.7
February 1, 2005 — Phonetic Systems, Ltd., of Burlington,
Israel — $35 million
May 2005 — MedRemote Inc., of
Westmont, Illinois — $6.2 million
List of countries with English speaking TTS voices
United Kingdom (Scotland)
List of other countries with TTS voices
ScanSoft merges with Nuance; changes company-wide name to "Nuance
September 15, 2005 — ScanSoft acquired and merged with Nuance
Menlo Park, California
Menlo Park, California — $221 million.
October 18, 2005, the company changed the name to "Nuance
Communications, Inc." 
Nuance acquisitions after merger
March 31, 2006 —
Dictaphone Corporation, of Stratford, Connecticut
– $357 million
December 29, 2006 — Mobile Voice Control, Inc. of Mason,
March 2007 — Focus Informatics, Inc. Woburn, Massachusetts[citation
March 26, 2007 — Bluestar Resources Ltd.
April 24, 2007 — BeVocal, Inc. of
Mountain View, California
Mountain View, California — $140
August 24, 2007 — VoiceSignal Technologies, Inc. of Woburn,
August 24, 2007 —
Tegic Communications, Inc. of Seattle, Washington
— $265 million.
Tegic developed and was the patent owner of T9
September 28, 2007 — Commissure, Inc. of
New York City, New York
New York City, New York —
217,975 shares of common stock.
November 2, 2007 — Vocada, Inc. of Dallas, Texas
November 26, 2007 — Viecore, Inc. of Mahwah, New Jersey[citation
November 26, 2007 — Viecore, FSD. of Eatontown, New Jersey[citation
May 20, 2008 — eScription, Inc. of
Needham, Massachusetts — $340
million plus 1,294,844 shares of common stock.
July 31, 2008 — MultiVision Communications Inc. of Markham,
September 26, 2008 —
Philips Speech Recognition SystemsGMBH (PSRS),
a business unit of Royal
Philips Electronics of Vienna,
about €66 million, or US$96.1 million. The acquisition of
Philips Speech Recognition Systems sparked an antitrust investigation
by the US Department of Justice. This investigation was focused
upon medical transcription services. This investigation was closed in
October 1, 2008 — SNAPin Software, Inc. of
Bellevue, Washington —
$180 million in shares of common stock.
January 15, 2009 — Nuance Acquires IBM's patents Speech Technology
April 10, 2009, — Zi
Corporation of Calgary, Alberta, Canada for
approximately $35 million in cash and common stock.
May 2009, — the speech technology department of Harman International
July 14, 2009, —
Jott Networks Inc. of Seattle, Washington.[citation
September 18, 2009, — nCore Ltd. of Oulu, Finland.
October 5, 2009 —
Ecopy of Nashua, New Hampshire. Under the terms of
the agreement, net consideration was approximately $54 million in
Nuance common stock.
December 30, 2009 —
Spinvox of Marlow, UK for $102.5m comprising
$66m in cash and $36.5m in stock.
February 16, 2010, Nuance announced they acquired MacSpeech for an
February 2010, Nuance acquired Language and Computing, Inc., a
provider of natural language processing and natural language
understanding technology solutions, from Gimv NV, a Belgium-based
private equity firm.
July 2010, Nuance acquired iTa P/L, an Australian IVR and speech
November 2010, Nuance acquired PerSay, a voice biometrics-based
authentication company for $12.6 million.
February 2011, Nuance acquired Noterize, an Australian company
producing software for the Apple iPad.
June 2011, Nuance acquired Equitrac, the world leader in print
management and cost recovery software.
June 2011, Nuance acquired SVOX, a speech technology company
specializing in the automotive, mobile, and consumer electronics
July 2011, Nuance acquired Webmedx, a provider of medical
transcription and editing services. Financial terms of the deal were
Loquendo announced Nuance acquired it.
a range of speech technologies for telephony, mobile, automotive,
embedded and desktop solutions including text-to-speech (TTS),
automatic speech recognition (ASR) and voice biometrics solutions.
Nuance paid 53 million euros.
October, 2011, Nuance acquired Swype, a company that produces input
software for touchscreen displays, for more than $100m.
December 2011 — Nuance acquired Vlingo, after repeatedly suing
Vlingo over patent infringement. The Cambridge-based
Vlingo was trying
to make voice enabling applications easier, by using their own
speech-to-text J2ME/Brew application API.
April 2012 — Nuance acquired Transcend Services. Transcend utilizes
a combination of its proprietary Internet-based voice and data
distribution technology, customer based technology, and home-based
medical language specialists to convert physicians' voice recordings
into electronic documents. It also provides outsourcing transcription
and editing services on the customer's platform.
June 2012 — Nuance acquired SafeCom, a provider of print management
and cost recovery software noted for their integration with
Hewlett-Packard printing devices.
September 2012 — Nuance acquired Ditech Networks for $22.5
September 2012 — Nuance acquired Quantim, QuadraMed's HIM Business
— a provider of information technology solutions for the healthcare
October 2012 — Nuance acquired J.A. Thomas and Associates (JATA) —
a provider of physician-oriented, clinical documentation improvement
(CDI) programs for the healthcare industry
November 2012 — Nuance acquired Accentus.
December 2012 — Nuance acquired Copitrak.
January 2013 — Nuance acquired VirtuOz.
May 2013 — Nuance acquired Tweddle Connect business for $80 million
from Tweddle Group
July 2013 — Nuance acquired Cognition Technologies Inc.[citation
October, 2013 — Nuance acquired
Varolii (formally Par3
August, 2016 — Nuance acquired Montage Healthcare
February, 2017 — Nuance acquired mCarbon for $36M, a mobile value
added services provider.
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