Voice Recognition Evolving From Many Development Efforts
Coincidentally, perhaps, Google in March hired a former director at DARPA, Regina Dugan, but it is not clear what her role will be or whether she worked on the CALO project. While Microsoft and Apple have their voice command innovations, Google has long been involved in delivering voice-recognition technology, too, even prior to the launch of its Android mobile OS, said William Stofega, an IDC program director in Mobile Device Technology and Trends research.At first, there were troubles, but then you started to see it start to learn and get better and better, Stofega said. By the time they pulled it off the market, it was great; it was fantastic and I miss it. Other voice-recognition technology leaders include Nuance Communications, famous for the Dragon line of voice-to-text dictation software. Stofega says Nuance technology is behind the Siri service, although Apple also adds proprietary artificial intelligence technology so that the actress Deschanel can tell Siri, Lets get tomato soup delivered in one TV ad, and Siri can respond with a list of area restaurants that deliver tomato soup. The Siri technology comes from an Apple acquisition in 2010. Microsofts voice-recognition smarts come from its 2007 acquisition of Tellme Networks, a voice-recognition company that is operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. Stofega is skeptical that any voice service can be as accurate as their portrayals in TV adsas they can fail to recognize heavy accents and be affected by ambient background noisebut says the technology keeps improving. Analyst Ellison says modern voice recognition in systems like Siri or Audible depends on three key factors. First is the quality of voice recognition, the ability for the software to understand the words being said. Second is determining the meaning of the words, he said. On interactive voice-recognition systems (IVR) used in a customer service setting, there are prompts like Say Balance if someone is calling their bank to see how much money is in their checking account. As IVRs evolved, however, the systems have learned to understand the meaning of a string of words in context, allowing a customer to instead ask How much money is in my checking account? Third, Ellison explained, is the integration of the voice-recognition technology and the application with the database of information available to the Siri or Audible service. The [Siri] engine needs to understand and format this data in a way that another application provider can use. This service needs to be able to meta-tag their data appropriately to provide the appropriate responses, Ellison said. A smartphone personal assistant, as the technology evolves, can be a real aid to public safety, said analyst Stofega. Traffic accidents caused by distracted driving can occur because drivers are fumbling with their touch-screen phones to find information or, worse, sending text messages. As voice services evolve, drivers will be able to dictate texts and ask for directions to that place that serves that great tomato soup.
Stofega was a longtime fan of Google 411, the directory-assistance service that was based on voice recognition. People would call G-O-O-G-4-1-1 on their mobile phones and get a phone number for a person or business and dial through to that number for free. Google launched it in 2007 but dropped it in 2010.