Telephone your credit-card company, health insurer or just about any big consumer-facing company, then speak into the receiver: for new accounts, say “new"; or billing, say “billing.” Forget it. You shout and stumble through the phone maze and often land at the directory’s start.
Recognize this experience? Somehow, voice recognition —despite some of technology’s most awesome achievements (tablets! the remote control!) — remains an anathema. We still can’t talk to computers like Captain Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Turns out building voice recognition to acknowledge a “yes” or “no” — let alone complex conversations — isn’t so easy.
“There are 200 ways to say ‘yes: Sure, okay, yeah, uh huh’ ” to name a few, says Alex Rudnicky, a speech recognition expert and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. “Getting that right is surprisingly difficult.”
The foundations of most voice technology used today date back to the ‘70s. But with the proliferation of smartphones and new voice technology, devices like Apple’s iPhone 4S have upped the ante on voice recognition.
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