Mashable Tech - Until recently, the idea of holding a conversation with a computer seemed pure science fiction. If you asked a computer to “open the pod bay doors”—well, that was only in movies. [...]
“We’re at a transition point where voice and natural-language understanding are suddenly at the forefront,” says Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer of Nuance Communications, a company based in Burlington, Massachusetts, that dominates the market for speech recognition with its Dragon software and other products. “I think speech recognition is really going to upend the current [computer] interface.”
Progress has come about thanks in part to steady progress in the technologies needed to help machines understand human speech, including machine learning and statistical data-mining techniques. Sophisticated voice technology is already commonplace in call centers, where it lets users navigate through menus and helps identify irate customers who should be handed off to a real customer service rep. [...]
Jim Glass, a senior research scientist at MIT who has been working on speech interfaces since the 1980s, says today’s smart phones pack as much processing power as the laboratory machines he worked with in the ’90s. Smart phones also have high-bandwidth data connections to the cloud, where servers can do the heavy lifting involved with both voice recognition and understanding spoken queries. “The combination of more data and more computing power means you can do things today that you just couldn’t do before,” says Glass. “You can use more sophisticated statistical models.” [...]
Perhaps people will even speak to computers they wear, like the photo-snapping eyeglasses in development at Google. Sources at Nuance say they are actively planning how speech technology would have to be architected to run on wearable computers.