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IVR Service Provider Trends: Advances in Voice Technology Raise the Bar for Speech Recognition

April 09, 2012
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Anyone who has dialed into an automated customer service phone system can attest to the frustration of trying to get that system to recognize spoken commands. These systems are notorious for misunderstanding even simple voice requests, especially if the speaker has an accent or is speaking over a less-than-perfect connection.

This is frustrating for both consumers and the companies that use voice recognition systems, especially since the technology holds so much promise for providing more efficient services.

“Somehow, voice recognition remains an anathema,” noted reporter Heesan Wee in a recent article. “We still can’t talk to computers like Captain Picard on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’”

It’s true that speech recognition—the technology used to identify spoken words, first developed in the 1970s—isn’t quite there yet. But it is getting much closer thanks to some recent innovations.

Most noteworthy among those is the Siri application on Apple’s iPhone (News - Alert) 4S, which is significantly raising the bar on speech recognition and renewing the promise of this technology.

Short for “speech interpretation and recognition interface,” Siri uses a natural language user interface to perform various actions—such as looking up information—through a set of web services. It’s designed to adapt over time to the individual user’s preferences by, for example, offering personalized recommendations for restaurants to try based on past preferences.

In 2010, Apple (News - Alert) purchased the company that developed Siri, and made the application an integral and exclusive part of its iPhone 4S smartphone.

In the article, Wee pointed out that, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, speech recognition innovations played a starring role. For example, Samsung and Nuance (News - Alert) unveiled TVs with voice-activated functions.

Nuance, Wee noted, is partially behind the success of Siri; the company’s technology does the job of translating spoken words, which Siri then analyzes and acts on. Siri works well enough that it could have applications far beyond the iPhone.

For IVR service providers, this means the true potential of speech recognition is within sight. Wee pointed out that the automated customer service market is worth about $10 billion, so there’s a lot at stake.

To learn more, visit the IVR Service Provider channel.

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