Speech recognition blazes path to the future – speech recognition technology in telecommunications

Speech recognition blazes path to the future – speech recognition technology in telecommunications – Telefocus

Ann H. Lindstrom

Researchers have spent 20 years investigating speech recognition technology, but have barely scratched the surface of its potential in telecommunications. Thanks to a technique called wordspotting and advances in digital signal processing, however, speech recognition is beginning to make its way into the network.

For years, it was believed that a viable speech recognition system would need to cope with 99% of the words being spoken to it, according to Shirad Singhal, director of speech recognition applications for Bellcore. Initial tests of speech recognition systems in the early 1980s proved that attempts to limit user input to key commands were futile because people could not resist saying more than was necessary, consequently confounding the computers.

It was clear that the systems would need help coping with the extra words. In the mid-1980s, AT&T Bell Laboratories’ scientists began to investigate wordspotting, an algorithm-then being used by the military-that allowed a system to focus only on key words even if they were contained in casual speech.

Today’s commercially available systems and those expected in the near term use the technique, but they still only respond to limited vocabularies and input, says Jay Wilpon, member of technical staff in the speech research department of AT&T Bell Labs.

“These systems work well under the right conditions, but they are not very robust,” adds Singhal.

Wordspotting’s beauty is that it allows users to talk naturally, placing the burden of understanding on the technology, not on the user, says Wilpon. Wordspotting made it possible to put speech recognition to work today, but it is a transitional technology.

It may be around for a while, however, because speech science is in its infancy, says Wilpon, adding that it will be a long time before today’s basic detail because the FCC currently has a rulemaking under way to re-examine the issue of spectrum in the 2-GHz band, Sikes stressed that “in the final analysis, we’re not talking about reaching in and taking away existing licenses from fixed microwave users.”

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