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Sources Say Amazon Acquired Siri-Like Evi App For $26M – Is A Smartphone Coming?

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When Siri arrived on the iPhone 4S it seemed like a magic piece of software. The future had arrived. But it wasn’t alone. True Knowledge, a British startup with a natural language search engine developed in university labs, had been working out what to do next. Siri was the ‘boom’ moment. They licensed Nuance’s voice recognition technology and created an app based on the True Knowledge engine, called Evi, which worked on any iPhone and Android.

That clever move looks like it paid off. TechCrunch understands from sources that the company has been sold to Amazon for $26 million. However, calls to Amazon PR, backers Octopus Ventures and the founders of Evi have ben met with a stoney silence. A spokesperson for Octopus told us: “On this occasion Octopus will decline to comment on this specific portfolio company.”

Evi had a controversial birth, being threatened with being pulled from the Apple App store for being too similar to Siri, then being allowed to stay.

Will Amazon combine Evi with the voice recognition company they bought in January called Ivona? It’s hard to say. But smart observers might speculate that all these moves point towards Amazon developing a mobile handset/smartphone.

But the evidence that Amazon purchased Evi late last year is incontrovertible.

At UK Companies House all the Evi Technologies Ltd directors have been replaced by Amazon’s UK legal representative, and this is confirmed by the Octopus Ventures annual report. The annual reports of all Octopus Ventuers’ funds all refer to the disposing of their shares in Evi Technologies.

Companies House records show all directors at Evi have been replaced and loans paid off, while a small loss of £19,000 was recognised.

The new Company Secretary for Evi Technologies is also Amazon’s: Mitre Secretaries Ltd are the corporate secretary for Amazon.co.uk (and Amazon’s London software development company).

Evi is an iOS and Android app and runs on any Android or iPhone. The app couples Nuance’s voice recognition technology and True Knowledge’s search engine.

It uses natural language text to ‘understand’ what the user means, as well as their intent. Evi does all three of these together and has been described as being capable of ‘learning’. It has an ontology of tens of thousands of classes and almost a billion ‘facts’ (machine understandable bits of knowledge) and, says True Knowledge, can infer trillions more when needed. It also pulls in Yelp for local searches, external mobile friendly websites, APIs, traditional search, etc.