Microsoft acquires Nuance—makers of Dragon speech rec—for $16 billion

A man with his sleeves rolled up speaks into a headset while staring at a laptop.
Enlarge / On this 2011 photograph, Dr. Michael A. Lee makes use of Dragon Medical voice-recognition software program to enter his notes after seeing a affected person.

Earlier as we speak, Microsoft introduced its plans to buy Nuance for $56 per share—23 p.c above Nuance’s closing value final Friday. The deal provides as much as a $16 billion money outlay and a complete valuation for Nuance of about $19.7 billion, together with that firm’s assumed debt.

Who’s Nuance?

In this 2006 photo, Rollie Berg—who has extremely limited use of his hands due to multiple sclerosis—uses Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 to interact directly with his PC.
Enlarge / On this 2006 photograph, Rollie Berg—who has extraordinarily restricted use of his arms as a result of a number of sclerosis—makes use of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 to work together instantly together with his PC.

Nuance is a widely known participant within the area of pure language recognition. The corporate’s know-how is the core of Apple’s Siri private assistant. Nuance additionally sells well-known private speech-recognition software program Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is invaluable to many individuals with a variety of bodily disabilities.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking, initially launched in 1997, was one of many first commercially obtainable steady dictation merchandise—that means software program that didn’t require the consumer to pause briefly between phrases. In 2000, Dragon Techniques was acquired by ScanSoft, which acquired Nuance Communications in 2005 and rebranded itself as Nuance.

Earlier variations of Dragon software program used hidden Markov models to puzzle out the that means of human speech, however this technique had critical limitations in comparison with trendy AI algorithms. In 2009, Stanford researcher Fei-Fei Li created ImageNet—an enormous coaching knowledge set that spawned a increase in deep-learning algorithms used for contemporary, core AI tech.

After Microsoft researchers Dong Yu and Frank Seide efficiently applied deep-learning strategies to real-time computerized speech recognition in 2010, Dragon—now Nuance—utilized the identical strategies to its personal speech-recognition software program.

Quick ahead to as we speak, and based on each Microsoft and Nuance, medically focused variations of Dragon are in use by 77 p.c of hospitals, 75 p.c of radiologists, and 55 p.c of physicians in america.

Microsoft’s acquisition play

Microsoft and Nuance started a partnership in 2019 to ship ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) applied sciences to well being care suppliers. ACI know-how is meant to scale back doctor burnout and improve effectivity by offloading administrative duties onto computer systems. (A 2017 study printed within the Annals of Household Drugs documented physicians sometimes spending two hours of record-keeping for each single hour of precise affected person care.)

Buying Nuance provides Microsoft direct entry to the corporate’s whole well being care buyer checklist. It additionally provides Microsoft the chance to push Nuance know-how—at the moment, principally used within the US—to Microsoft’s personal giant worldwide market. Nuance chief government Mark Benjamin—who will proceed to run Nuance as a Microsoft division after the acquisition—describes it as a chance to “superscale how we modify an business.”

The transfer doubles Microsoft’s complete addressable market within the well being care vertical to just about $500 billion. It additionally marries what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes as “the AI layer on the healthcare level of supply” with Microsoft’s personal huge cloud infrastructure, together with Azure, Groups, and Dynamics 365.

The acquisition has been unanimously accepted by the boards of administrators of each Nuance and Microsoft and it’s anticipated to shut by the tip of 2021.

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