Monday, May 19, 2008

OnMobile buys Telisma

OnMobile Global Ltd today acquired France-based Telisma, a producer of speech recognition software for network/telephony environments.
The acquisition comes at a time after OnMobile recently partnered with Nuance, a Telisma competitor for speech recognition markets, to deploy voice search applications for its home market, India. India's multilingual market has made it a tough one to crack for speech technology companies, though a lucrative one as India has recently surpassed the U.S. as the second largest mobile market in the world, according to Om Malik at GigaOm.
I suspect issues specific to speech technology and India's multilingualism have something to do with this deal. As I recently pointed out, internationalization of speech and language technologies comes at a steep entry cost, due to the high demands on expertise and data required for building language-specific models. In addition, speech recognition companies like Nuance have long kept their language models under wraps. In other words, if your language isn't catered to, reaching that language's customer base becomes a very pricey affair.
While open-source aspirations to build freely availably language models for speech recognition exist, Telisma has opted on middle-ground in this matter by allowing partners/customers to build their own models, but selling the tools to do so at a price. In a market like India, the ability to cater to a multi-lingual customer base without purchase of expensive proprietary software (or paying someone else to develop proprietary software for you to purchase) may have made a big difference in this deal.

On a different note, this acquisition is the latest in a series of acquisitions consolidating the speech technology market. While five years ago telephony speech technology was a highly redundant market of small companies building similar products, today they have largely been acquired by or merged with bigger players. In the meantime, companies like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens and Google are making their own moves to enter the market.

Update:
Telismas acoustic modelling toolkit is indeed not for sale, but for free, as one reader has pointed out. Thanks!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The tools you are talking about to create acoustic and language models for speech recognition (and TTS) from Telisma are not sold : they are free, with a nice GUI based on Eclipse. It's definitely the open approach the speech industry was waiting for...

Okko said...

My apologies.

I agree. Allowing users to perform their own acoustic model development is definitely a great step towards the opening of speech technology.

It would be great to hear some success stories of people doing such work, which I imagine remains quite data-intensive.

Anonymous said...

I've read a newsletter from Telisma saying that they now have a partner in Malaysia called Nusuara who have developed Thai and Malay acoustic models using Telisma's free Eclipse toolkit. It seems to be a compelling model