AT&T to help computers talk the talk

New software developed by the AT&T Advanced Speech Products Group may soon help users talk to their computers.

New software developed by the AT&T Advanced Speech Products Group may soon help users talk to their computers.

The group has launched a licensing program to make its AT&T Watson ASAP speech-processing software available to vendors of applications that could incorporate the technology.

Watson will let a user issue up to 100 commands to a PC through a microphone or over the telephone with a response rate guaranteed to be 95 percent accurate, according to AT&T. For example, when a user says, "Give me my messages," the PC will read them aloud. Users can also program the software to understand "code names" to substitute, for example, the word boss for jerk. So if a user says, "Download the files to the jerk," they would automatically be sent to the boss.

The software runs on Windows NT and Windows 95 now available to developers for $3,000. Watson has already been licensed by 50 companies, including Millenia Software and Speech Systems, according to AT&T. A Macintosh version is scheduled to be available later this year, along with foreign-language versions.

Watson is based on 30 years of speech research at AT&T and understands commands spoken at conversational speed. Most speech technologies require users to speak slowly so that the computer can understand them.

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