Saturday, May 26, 2007

Speech technology company in court (5)

The other day I asked myself what had happened after the failing of Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP). The Belgian company had acquired the many players in speech and translation technology and had a vision about the future. The spoils of LHSP were bought by Scansoft, which changed its name to Nuance Communications. But after the bankruptcy you did not hear too much about speech and translation technology. Some people recommended to me the Dragon Natural Language package in order to speed up my writing of articles and manuscripts as I am not a fast typist.

But it looks like a silent break-through is coming about. It looks like computer speech recognition is sufficiently advanced. Examples become available in the automobile branch. Microsoft's Sync software will let drivers use spoken commands to play music and dial their phones; the drivers will not be able to use voice commands for the driving itself.

Naturally Speaking by Nuance Communications is a leading personal computer product for speech recognition. The computer user speaks into a microphone, and the words appear on the screen and corrections can be made. However the program has to be trained to suit your speaking style and to improve accuracy rates.

Traditionally speech recorders have been used by lawyers and doctors. But by putting their analyses and diagnoses in smart speech recorders, the spoken texts is automatically transcribed into written texts.

But of one the largest applications of speech technology is now being used in call centres. Three trends can be seen in call centres:
- Speech for self-service. Speech recognition is accepted by people phoning up.
- Interactive Voice Recognition, speech recognition, routing can be outsourced.
- Speech analysis and mining. New speech analysis and mining tools will deliver a treasure of information about the conversations between clients and agents.

Speech synthesis software is now also being used in car navigation. So your English friend can use your car and the car navigation system by changing from your mother tongue into English. Reading television subtitles is another application area in which speech synthesis and translation can be combined. But speech and translation technologies should culminate in software which automatically translates a conversation between for example Japanese and a Dutchman.

But for the time being the ideal of the founders of LHSP to produce a chip which accepts commands to the magnetron, regardless of the language, is still some way off.

Blog Posting Number: 765

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