Apple has reportedly acquired Novauris Technologies, a British speech-recognition company that believes "voice will become the interface of choice for consumer applications of all types".
The Cheltenham-based company's technology is likely to be used to boost Apple's digital personal assistant, Siri, which was first introduced on Apple's iPhone 4S in 2011.
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," a spokesperson said.
On its website, Novauris claims that its technology, dubbed NovaSearch, doesn't carry out recognition of spoken words or sequences of words, but instead identifies complete phrases from start to finish, and then matches them against an inventory of possible utterances. According to the firm, its inventory includes access to 245 million items of structured data, and with unstructured utterances, the technology can distinguish between up to 100,000 items.
It claims that the software is ideal for systems that don't have a huge amount of memory available, such as in-car navigation or entertainment systems.
Cortana can scan emails and uses Bing to intelligently "learn" about the phone user, integrating itself intelligently with apps to achieve feats such as opening Facebook and looking up a specific person all after a line of voice commands, among other features.
Google also has its own "personal assistant" voice command tool, dubbed Google Now.