If you have eyes, you can see that the technology industry has been maturing over the decades since its conception. Unlike every other growing and evolving thing, however, technology has been cruising in the fast lane for quite some time now, changing as quickly as it takes to blink an eye or take a breath. Regardless of what aspect, maturity is in fact an essential part of technology, as it goes hand in hand with collaborative research and development. In light of this, an informative Plum Voice blog takes a look back at the swift expansion of some of today’s most iconic technological innovations, especially IVR.
I think we’d all agree with the blog’s statement that “the first versions of a technology product are typically the least streamlined and refined rendering of the product.” Because of this, businesses must heavily rely on their client base to report problems during the product’s use in real-time environments. Take, for example, the first cell phone. The concept was ground-breaking and exciting, but the product itself looked heinous, clunky, heavy and incredibly inconvenient in comparison to what feels like the microscopic portable devices we have today (think the iPod shuffle). Another great example is the world’s first computer; no one particularly enjoyed its enormous, main frame which took hours to process even the simplest of data.
Then we get to the first interactive voice response systems. IVR research and development, as the blog well states, “has been ongoing since the unveiling of Bell Labs’ (News - Alert) speech synthesis project that produced ‘The Voder’ for display at the 1939 World’s Fair.” Originally created by companies to improve human-machine interactions, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that IVR actually started integrating with multimedia and began functioning in tandem with computers. Additionally, IVR systems have profoundly improved over the last ten years, witnessing more progress than ever before in the past 60 years of its existence. A lot of this has to do with developments in speech recognition technology – “a feature that is often a critical component of enterprise-level IVR systems.”
The blog quotes Alan Chew on this evolutionary phase, who, in his article titled, “Speech Recognition Comes of Age,” writes, “Like so many others I had been disappointed by the shortcomings of similar software some years ago. In my first attempts to use the product some 15 years ago, I was impressed by the concept and cleverness, but ultimately frustrated by the immaturity of the technology.”
Of course with every exciting modernization come some minor – or major – obstacles. For IVR, it was found that speech recognition technology is infamously difficult to build. As it is a software enabling machines to link to the human world, this does seem like it could be a lengthy and challenging process. Additionally, every word, phrase, and spoken expression which needs to be processed and interpreted unfortunately can only be manually programmed; that’s obviously not the most enjoyable of procedures.
Bringing this full circle, though, we know that with every obstacle comes a flourishing of new advancements. As the blog perfectly puts it, “The technology is still not 100 percent perfect, with its biggest weakness being its inability to distinguish between homophones like ‘once’ and ‘wants,’ but it is frequently able to select the correct word by assessing the context of the utterance.”
If you’re careful to select a good engine that accurately interprets words, encountering an IVR system can be fairly simple, speedy, and an overall satisfying experience. As mentioned before, no one knows what can happen tomorrow when looking at the rapidly moving technology timeline. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Edited by Jamie Epstein