Tuesday, November 23, 2010

[News] ACMTech Nov.23

AT&T Ups the Ante in Speech Recognition
CNet (11/18/10) Marguerite Reardon

AT&T says it has devised technologies to boost the accuracy of speech and language recognition technology as well as broaden voice activation to other modes of communication.  AT&T's Watson technology platform is a cloud-based system of services that identifies words as well as interprets meaning and contexts to make results more accurate.  AT&T recently demonstrated various technologies such as the iRemote, an application that transforms smartphones into voice-activated TV remotes that let users speak natural sentences asking to search for specific programs, actors, or genres.  Most voice-activated remotes respond to prerecorded commands, but the iRemote not only recognizes words, but also employs other language precepts such as syntax and semantics to interpret and comprehend the request's meaning.  AT&T also is working on voice technology that mimics natural voices through its AT&T Natural Voices technology, which builds on text-to-speech technology to enable any message to be spoken in various languages, including English, French, Italian, German, or Spanish when text is processed via the AT&T cloud-based service.  The technology accesses a database of recorded sounds that, when combined by algorithms, generate spoken phrases.

What If We Used Poetry to Teach Computers to Speak Better?
McGill University (11/17/10)

McGill University linguistics researcher Michael Wagner is studying how English and French speakers use acoustic cues to stress new information over old information.  Finding evidence of a systematic difference in how the two languages use these cues could aid computer programmers in their effort to produce more realistic-sounding speech.  Wagner is working with Harvard University's Katherine McCurdy to gain a better understanding of how people decide where to put emphasis.  They recently published research that examined the use of identical rhymes in poetry in each language.  The study found that even when repeated words differ in meaning and sound the same, the repeated information should be acoustically reduced as otherwise it will sound odd.  "Voice synthesis has become quite impressive in terms of the pronunciation of individual words," Wagner says.  "But when a computer 'speaks,' whole sentences still sound artificial because of the complicated way we put emphasis on parts of them, depending on context and what we want to get across."  Wagner is now working on a model that better predicts where emphasis should fall in a sentence given the context of discourse.

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