Siri-like competitor understands ‘Singlish’

Siri, the Apple iPhone 4S personal assistant now faces a rival from Singapore-based telecommunications giant, SingTel. The primary reason for development? Singaporeans needed a device which could understand “Singlish”.

Singlish is a localised form of English, with words that have been taken from various Asian languages.

SingTel’s new app, called DeF!ND will assist citizens of Singapore who wish to use a Siri-like application which actually understands them. When the iPhone 4S was released in Japan earlier this month, content began to circulate which showed how the new phone from Apple is unable to handle the unique nuances of the local language.

SingTel mentioned that DeF!ND will be able to easily decipher “uniquely Singaporean accents” including locations and names.

CEO of SingTel, Allen Lew publicly announced DeF!ND for the iPhone 4S, demonstrating how it works giving it clear instructions in Singlish. “We have a voice application capability in DeF!ND that is unique because it understands the local language… which the voice recognition engine within an international device like Apple doesn’t quite have.”

“When we tried to test different voice recognition systems including… Siri, we found that the Singaporean accent is pretty unique and the common international voice recognition systems don’t quite pick up the nuance of how we speak.”

“And of course our street names and our food names are very local so we developed and trained this new system to allow it to recognise it better.” According to a spokesperson from SingTel, DeF!ND will be released very soon for the iPhone 4S, care of the iTunes store. For Android users, Lew has promised that a version for the popular range of smartphone’s will land “soon”.

Siri, the personal voice assistant is only available for the iPhone 4S. Having a similar service for Apples competition will surely keep the Californian-based company on its toes.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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