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Speech Technology on Cell Phones Getting Better but Still Not Perfect

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Dariusz Paczuski, senior director, Tellme, Mountain View office.

Gary Reyes, Mercury News


"Cat got your tongue?" my wife asked as we bumped along the freeway one recent afternoon. "I wonder where that phrase comes from?" she added a moment later.

Now here was an opportunity for a husband to be useful. I knew I could simply say, "Origin of the phrase 'cat got your tongue' " into Google's new Nexus One or an Apple iPhone loaded with Microsoft's new Bing search app—the two smartphones I happened to have in my possession—to answer her second question.

The spoken word is becoming an effective way to overcome the frustrations and limitations of typing on a smartphone. Google and Microsoft now offer speech-enabled Web search on a variety of mobile platforms. And a growing number of iPhone and Android apps—and services like Google Voice and YouTube's recent launch of automatic captioning of videos—can transcribe speech into text. The technology has evolved to a point where speech is a central feature on the Nexus One, allowing users to speak a tweet, an e-mail or a Facebook update.

"2010 is the year when speech goes mainstream," said Dariusz Paczuski, senior director for Tellme Mobile Speech, a Mountain View company that became a unit of Microsoft in 2007. "There have been years and years of speech applications and many of them have failed, but you're hitting a convergence point where a lot of technologies are coming together."

Tellme already provides speech recognition technology for everything from Bing searches to spoken commands for the sound system in Ford cars.

Mike Cohen, Google's manager of speech technology, says speech will soon be an option for almost every function of a mobile device.

From San Jose Mercury News
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