Have you ever flirted with voice recognition technology by purchasing voice dictation software in the past, only to find out that it was good in theory, but bad in practice? Thankfully, times are changing, largely due to mobile computing and improved technology that are finally doing away with the process of training voice recognition software to understand a user’s speech.
“We’re at a transition point where voice and natural-language understanding are suddenly at the forefront,” Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer at Nuance (News - Alert) recently told MIT Technology Review. “I think speech recognition is really going to upend the current [computer] interface.”
Voice technology is already commonplace in call centers via automated voice response (IVR), but now, it’s embedded in smartphones and is making inroads with business.
“In the environs of the office, where speech technology could save us time and make us more productive, most of us are still stuck with keyboards and mice,” wrote John Brandon for ComputerWorld.
This, however, is changing fast.
Heavy hitters such as Nuance, Google (News - Alert) and Apple have heavily invested in speech technologies as part of personal digital assistants such as Apple's Siri and Google Voice Actions, both of which can understand natural language commands. And this seems to only represent the beginning.
“The main advancement is that the speech tools are now closer to the user – on our phones and tablets as we go about our day – and many run in the cloud, which provides immediate processing and a constantly expanding language database,” Brandon explained. “Unlike older desktop-based software, these new tools do not require speech training, thanks to improvements in the algorithms.”
Today, voice recognition can easily turn what was once a complex series of swipes and mouse movements into a single voice command, significantly simplifying computing everywhere.
“Suddenly you have this new building block, this new dimension that you can bring to the problem,” said Sejnoha. “And I think we’re going to be designing the basic modern device UI with that in mind.”
A sign that voice recognition will be soon finding its way into every area of computing is how the technology can now be easily added to apps using an API by Nuance. The company offers a number of software development kits available to anyone who wants to include voice recognition technology in an application.
One firm that has done just that is Montrue Technologies, who used Nuance’s mobile medical software development kit to develop an iPad app that lets physicians dictate notes.
“It’s astonishingly accurate,” Brian Phelps told MIT (News - Alert) Technology Review, CEO and co-founder of Montrue. “Speech has turned a corner; it’s gotten to a point where we’re getting incredible accuracy right out of the box.”
This furthermore benefits those already employing voice recognition, such as call center managers. As users grow accustomed to using voice recognition in daily life, IVR will undoubtedly blend into the everyday experience.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo