Speech-World Keynotes (Part I)

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Greg Galitzine

Speech-World Keynotes (Part I)

I had the opportunity to take in this morning’s keynote speeches at Speech-World Conference in Dallas, TX. After a brief introduction from Rich Tehrani, TMC’s President, Cisco’s Vickie McGovern – director of Product and Technology Marketing – IP Communications – took the stage to share her vision for speech technology and how speech is redefining communications.

The core message of the keynote was that speech can reduce the complexity associated with business communications. She touched on a variety of key elements including
Virtualization, Rich Media (focusing on personalization preferences), Natural Language (for such applications as directory services, e-mail and voicemail access, password services, communications management, and calendar management), and
Modality, Presence, and Context (a good example of which is someone calling me when I’m on another call, I respond via IM, and the response is read back to them utilizing speech technology).

Not to diminish any element of Ms. McGovern’s presentation – the whole keynote was compelling, and she had my attention throughout – but perhaps the highlight was the demonstration of Cisco’s upcoming Galileo product. This was the first such public demo of Galileo, pieces of which will begin shipping this fall. On the surface, the application reminded me of an application called Wildfire.

McGovern used a standard desktop phone to call into the system, and using voice commands, she navigated through her e-mail inbox, listening to messages from among others, John Chambers. The demo also showcased Ms. McGovern accessing her appointments from her Outlook Calendar.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this application in the near future.

McGovern closed by declaring a new world of communications as we enter a phase she called “communications experience convergence” where we will see an increase in business process efficiencies. Speech is redefining communications, she said, affording anywhere anytime access, and streamlining communications. Those are the key elements that speech brings to the table.


Aculab’s Mike Matthews, head of product marketing, followed McGovern to the stage. Matthews played up to his company’s position as a provider of DSP resource boards and other tools for the development community. “We don’t do solutions,” he said, “but rather, facilitate them.”

Matthews started off with a thought provoking assertion: “Speech will become redundant,” he declared.

His talk ranged across a wide variety of interesting topics, including the fact that often in technology, the most interesting and lasting technical developments are often unanticipated byproducts. He gave a good example of how Teflon was developed as a heat resistant element for NASA’s space shuttle program, but the chemical coating is perhaps best-known for its use on kitchen pans and utensils.

How many commissioned technologies actually become successful, and how many were unanticipated successes? Matthews prodded the audience, “What about speech?”

He gave a wonderful example of how technology that was used in a prison to enable inmates to have greater access to making calls to the outside world (based on a series of privileges, earned credits, and good behavior, etc…). Well, some of the technologies needed to enable that application, such as speaker verification (for authentication), and word spotting (for monitoring the content of the calls) have found their way into mainstream speech applications, proving Matthews’ assertion that “specialist partners working together with speech technology elements can result in innovative business solutions.”

He closed his discussion by addressing the reality that experience drives different approaches to old problems. For example, first-generation products are tougher to develop than subsequent revisions. Second-generation development builds on past experience, leading to more successful deployment of products.

“We need to keep working to improve the perception of speech enabled solutions,” said Matthews.

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