Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Google on the Move, News Redux

Very quiet recently. No big acquisitions, no no speech-tech revolution.

Most interesting: Google announced Mike Cohen (of formerly Nuance) will appear as keynote speaker at SpeechTek in August to reveal Google's speech technology strategy. Google has already moved into the speech application market with GOOG411, an automatic directory assistance application leveraging business search and Google Maps.
UBC researchers announce speech learning system that doesn't use traditional data-driven model to learn the sounds of a language. Instead it is said to represent more experience driven learning, much like infants. So far, the system has acquired English and Japanese vowels.
Some product reviews/announcements: a quick history of desktop dictation, uses of TextAloud for the iPhone, and Nuance's new South African voice "Tessa".
Also on the web: NIST evaluates DARPA automatic translation software in military contexts, and What Semantic Search is Not.

I may post less frequently in coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This week: Bunnies, Trojans and the Jetsons

There was no shortage of novel uses for speech technology this week. Avaya and the Jersey City's Liberty Science Center announced speech-enabled exhibits, allowing customers to access information and services in the museum using their voice (and, of course, mobile devices).
Gizmo freaks should love (and everyone else should hate) this bunny, displaying speech recognition and synthesis, while also providing some unified communication capacities.
Also novel, though on a sadder note: speech is finally on the malware radar for good, as TTS trojans popped up using Microsoft's builtin text-to-speech engine to annoy users by commenting their own malicious behavior. Call it the salt-in-wound virus. This news comes after about half a year after a MS Vista speech recognition security flaw was revealed, whereby the recognizer enables remote execution of content on a computer running speech recognition.

Traditional speech applications made some headlines this week as well: Nuance signs deal with Damovo to roll out speech apps in Ireland, forecasting €1.5m in profits over the next year. TuVox annouces hosted on-demand speech apps for VOIP access.

Lastly, here is an interesting article about the Jetsons and why speech technology hasn't caught on as much as we have all hoped.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Slow week in terms of language technology news.
On the gaming front: Nintendo announced they were playing the middleware game for Wii development by opening up the platform to 3rd party technologies. Among the first to sign on was Fonix, allowing game developers to integrate VoiceIn Game edition, their video game console speech recognition and "karaoke" SDK. The karaoke feature seems rather gimmicky, geared only at the karaoke gaming genre, which seems rather niche. Fonix has displayed strong focus on gaming in the past, integrating as Sony PS3 middleware.
Unfortunately, speech in games has never made a big splash, but it represents a refreshing move away from customer service applications. Perhaps the middleware approach of many platform vendors will change things.
Talking about the customer service front: Genesys and Merced Systems team to develop improved reporting tools. Measuring and reporting customer service interaction has made headway recently. Focus on interaction effectiveness of natural language/speech applications intends to help correct some of the poor image that self-service applications live with. Relatedly, this article describes the shortcomings of such applications in the past and proposes a less-is-more, faster interaction paradigm for interactive voice response applications. While not all problems with IVR applications boil down to complicated menu structures and long response times, this is certainly a pointer in the right direction, placing emphasis on dialogue design rather than engineering.
Lastly, showing that not all speech communications is simply about customer service, Voxeo snags Gartners "Cool Vendors in Enterprise Communications, 2007" title, awarded to companies for being among the "interesting, new and innovative".