This is not
a good place for the claustrophobic.
�04 has approximately 93 exhibiting companies doing their thing in a
space the size of a Manhattan apartment (which is where the showcase is
taking place this year; specifically, at Times Square; minutely, at the
is an annual conference and tradeshow that allows those in the field of
speech or voice technology, like most other conference/tradeshows, the
opportunity to make deals, brag, snoop, schmooze and booze�all in the
name of technological advancement.
that we (humans) have met the abilities of the voice operations of HAL
(1968�s 2001: A Space Odyssey) but�HAVE WE?
know (didn�t HAL�s AI eventually kill people?). Speech and voice are not
new technologies, but they are burgeoning exigently. Speech, it seems,
is no longer for techno geeks and corporate higher-ups. It is now for
everybody (everybody with opposable thumbs, at least). But the �everyday
person� seems to still be hesitant, borderline terrified (it�s a very
thick line) to turn to using speech/voice tools. This is not only
because of primitive-thinking companies that will settle for what they
are used to, but also because it can be rather costly to roll out an
entirely new workable system.
exploration at this show, the technology is at a place where
speech/voice doesn�t have to be used only for corporate
conferencing�that�s just stupid. (A PR person for a company not in
speech/voice actually told me, after interest was expressed on my part
in a phone conversation, that is only what such technologies are used
Even at a
lower specific level, the technology is used in voice-operated phone
directories, customer care/service over the phone and in some call
centers where inquiries can be properly addressed and answered without a
live agent (identification and verification, etc.). These are only very
few examples of how speech and voice are already implemented and used.
however, only one stance on the technology of speech and voice.
I spoke with here, on the other hand, confided that the technology is
simply not ready to take place of human interactions and such
accompanying issues; she said, �Speech technology is not mature enough
to be used in a natural or extensive way.� Only for actions such as
directory assistance and those similar can it take the place of human
interaction in call centers, etc.�good news for live agents� jobs.
vendors at SpeechTEK have been saying that the technology is ready but
customers��everyday people��simply don�t understand the technology and
are, therefore, afraid or hesitant to significantly use it. And yet the
technology is decades old, with advancements, of course.
company higher-up, who�s been working in the field of speech for 30
years, told me that the technology is ready to be grasped and diligently
used because it is the most natural communication there is: most of us
have been speaking since we were children. The blame for its lack of
prevalence lies on both the creators and the future users/customers.
Yes, people shy away from technologies they don�t yet understand, but
creators of the software, financially supported by major
corporations that satisfyingly employ these licensed technologies, are bound not to let such information be known. Once
a major, influential corporate company announces that they actually use
this speech/voice technology with satisfactory results, others will
follow, like mouse-clicking rats to the keyboard-less Pied Piper (Don�t
let us mouse-clickers drown.).
So there is
still much Hamlet-like confusion amongst the en masse, and even
among the leaders, regarding the present state of speech and voice
technologies� identity and the role of both in our future technological
loyal readers (all three of you): James Carville is here as a keynote
speaker with Mary Matalin. I don�t think he�s here to discuss his role
in Old School.
David R. Butcher is the assistant editor for
Customer Inter@ction Solutions
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