Tech Industry

Speech recognition takes off

A handful of companies at the Demo 98 conference attempt to prove that speech recognition systems are about to break into the mainstream.

PALM SPRINGS, California--A handful of companies at the Demo 98 technology conference here today attempted to prove that speech recognition systems, a category of products that have captured the public's attention but not its wallets, are about to break into the mainstream.

Vendors ranging from long-time speech recognition practitioner IBM to brand-new start-ups talked up their contention that voice is the most natural form of human communication, thus making it well-suited as an interface for computing.

Dragon Systems and Corel (COSFF) announced today that Corel will integrate Dragon's speech recognition technology into Corel's word-processing software, WordPerfect.

That means future WordPerfect users will be able to write, edit, and format documents by talking into their computers rather than typing.

Don Sylvester, Corel senior vice president of sales, said Corel intends to build speech recognition into other products too. The collaboration with Dragon on WordPerfect software will aid the firm in its vertical markets where both companies are strong, including the legal and medical segments.

Dragon also announced that Actioneer will use Dragon's software development kit to build speech recognition into Actioneer's product line.

Nuance Communications introduced its Nuance Verifier system, which uses voice prints as a security measure to verify that an individual is really authorized to do financial, travel, or telecommunication transactions over the phone.

Nuance touted the technology as cheaper than other biometric systems that use fingerprints or optical recognition.

Fluent Speech previewed its technology to take speech beyond the audio to visual, where an on-screen talking head dubbed "Baldy" moved its lips as if to enunciate words--and then to sing a song. The talking-head technology will be included in Fluent's authoring tool for voice recognition, text-to-speech, and visual components of speech.

IBM likewise demonstrated the ability of voice systems to make and change travel reservations. IBM is licensing its technologies so others can build it into their business applications

Lernout & Houspie (LHSPF) talked up its voice recognition technologies not just for desktop computers, but for other information appliances, including Microsoft's Auto PC, where a voice system both responds to input and gives directions while driving.