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December 03, 2010

Google Acquires Synthetic Speech Startup Phonetic Arts

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

For years, Google (News - Alert) has been at the forefront of the speech recognition technology movement. The California-based Internet conglomerate has introduced a number of voice input tools for PCs and mobile devices that allow users to search, compose messages and launch applications by speaking just a few words. However, Google has yet to achieve any major breakthroughs in area of voice output, where computers speak back to users.

To help push innovation in this field, Google recently acquired Phonetic Arts, a UK-based synthetic speech startup, according to a recent company blog. The acquisition should help the search engine giant enhance its Google Translate platform as well as build text-to-speech functionality into other products, including its Android (News - Alert) mobile operating system.

Currently, Phonetic Arts specializes in creating software that converts inputted text into natural, very realistic sounding computer speech. While the Cambridge-based tech startup has concentrated most of its efforts over the last few years in the video gaming space, Google is sure to use the company's technology and expertise to create a more interactive experience for users of its search engine and mobile phone OS.

"In Star Trek, they don’t spend a lot of time typing things on keyboards—they just speak to their computers, and the computers speak back," Mike Cohen, Google's manager of speech technology, wrote in a company blog.

"We are excited about [Phonetic Arts'] technology, and while we don’t have plans to share yet, we’re confident that together we’ll move a little faster towards that Star Trek future," he concluded.

Meanwhile, Google also mentioned that part of its reasoning behind acquiring Phonetic Arts was to establish a greater presence in the London's thriving technology market.

As of this afternoon, we have yet to receive any updates on whether Groupon has accepted Google's near $6 billion acquisition bid. Groupon founder Andrew Mason said yesterday in a press release that the company would not be commenting on any acquisition rumors.

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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