updated 10:35 am EST, Thu January 24, 2013
Ivona already provides vocal functions for Kindle Fire tablets
Amazon has announced its acquisition of Ivona, a company that has specialized in text-to-speech technology for the last 10 years. The deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, sees Amazon take control of the firm and software that provides the text-to-speech functions for the Kindle Fire, as well as the tablet's Voice Guide and Explore By Touch functionality.
While Amazon offers text-to-speech functions on the Kindle Fire, such an acquisition will not only improve its existing capabilities, but will help the online retailer towards building future devices that have a significant vocal aspect to them. If Amazon eventually opts to create a smartphone, the vocal capabilities of Ivona's software would be a first step towards creating its own service similar to Siri, without relying on the services of companies such as Nuance.
Ivona currently offers text-to-speech to developers and companies, with a range of 44 voices in 17 different languages, and works with organizations such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People to help the visually impaired. Amazon may end up taking Ivona's services off the market in future, in order to keep the software to its own products, though this would put a number of current Ivona customers without any further support.