By Mark Swanson
This is Part 1 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security
The axiom in the IT industry is that a seismic shift in the “computing platform” occurs every decade or so. We saw it in the move from the mainframe to the mini-computer in the ‘70s, from the mini-computer to the PC in the ‘80s, the PC to Client Server in the ‘90s and to the Cloud in the 2000s. We believe that the next shift in computing has already begun. It has to do with how we interact with computers and how they understand that interaction. We are now at the cusp of combining true voice recognition with the ability to analyze the “Big Data” generated by these conversations to provide immediate insights into what is happening behind the electronic veil. If you are a business manager, you should pay attention to this emerging trend.
Missing this shift could mean going out of business.
Despite fifty years of technology advances, conversing with your computer has remained in the realm of science fiction. If you are over 40, you probably remember listening to the tranquil voice of HAL in 2001 Space Odyssey or watching Spock bark orders to the unnamed Duotronic Computer on the Starship Enterprise. In our mainstream culture, this future vision has yet to pan out – in fact as a culture we have gotten much more adept at using our thumbs than talking to a computer!
Despite our lack of awareness, our conversations are already being recorded, analyzed and tracked. A monolithic network of computing power owned by the Government, called Echelon, is listening to and recording phone conversations. Echelon provides a secret cadre of snoopers the ability to monitor and analyze millions of conversations. And, these are not just military or terrorist calls. In 2005, we learned that the NSA was wiretapping civilian conversations with Echelon. To this day, our government continues the policy of secretly tapping into our conversations and recognizing what you say.
You are also being understood.
Improvements in technology are turning speech recognition into speech understanding. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a project for recognizing speech and understanding its meaning since 2005. A project called GALE uses neural networks and statistical modeling technologies to “absorb, translate, analyze, and interpret huge volumes of speech and text in multiple languages.”
Commercial applications have lagged behind the government, but are now emerging as viable options. After a gestation of several decades, commercial speech recognition technologies popped onto the scene in the mid 1990’s. Apple and Microsoft started embedding speech recognition into their operating systems and Dragon Systems unveiled its software that recognized normal human speech. These applications were prone to errors and problems with the technology caused it to fade from the market, however, something has changed in the past couple years.
Up Next: The Personality of Speech Recognition