A Decade of Speech Technology Maturation

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of our annual Speech Industry Awards, which we launched shortly after our parent company—Information Today, Inc.—acquired Speech Technology magazine in 2006. (It’s amazing how time flies so quickly.) Since then, the industry has come a long way.

We’ve witnessed Apple’s release of its virtual assistant, Siri, and the emergence of multichannel and multimodal speech technologies, outbound IVR solutions, and hosted speech systems. There also have been developments in speech analytics and speaker verification and identification technologies, assistive technologies, and embedded technologies. And most recently, we’ve noticed some impressive progress with anthropomorphic technologies, such as natural language understanding and deep neural networks.

The developments of these technologies, and others, during the past 10 years have advanced the way people live and work by adding safety, security, insight, and conveniences to their daily lives. And for some, especially those who use assistive technologies, speech technology has helped to improve their quality of life.

After 10 years, the industry is certainly showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to innovation.

Our 2016 Star Performer Awards highlight some impressive new solutions from 12 companies. This year marks the first time deep neural networks are being used with speech-enabled IVRs, thanks to [24]7. We also recognize Acapela Group for delivering child-like and personalized voices to disabled children. IBM Watson is also turning heads, as the cognitive computing technology can understand, listen, and learn as it goes. The technology is already being used in Hilton Hotels and Resorts, as a digital concierge. NICE, with its Total Voice of the Customer portfolio, aims to collect information from a variety of sources, such as surveys, call center interactions, and social media, to create a complete picture of the customer interaction. Sensory is contributing to the Internet of Things by offering low-power, voice-triggered technology for consumer electronics.

Additionally, our 2016 Speech Luminaries are making significant contributions as well, with authentication technologies that can be used in the noisiest of environments, and with one industry veteran recognized for enabling developers to use Facebook’s platform to build natural language voice and text interfaces.

Clearly, there have been a lot of innovations during the past year alone. But when you look back over the course of the past 10 years to see how far the industry has come, it’s pretty remarkable.

In my first column as editorial director of Speech Technology, in the July/August 2006 issue, I wrote: “Speech technology is not only limited to the contact center. So in future issues…we’ll continue to provide articles covering speech technology trends in consumer electronics, Internet applications and VoIP, security offerings, manufacturing and logistics, and more. It’s an exciting time for the speech technology industry and…we’re happy to be part of it.”

Today, I can look back at those comments and proudly say that I’m happy to still be part of it. Thank you to all who have made the past 10 years a wonderful ride.

Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s Speech Industry Awards. May you continue to bring the industry to new heights.

David Myron is the editorial director of Speech Technology. He can be reached at dmyron@infotoday.com and @dmyron on Twitter.

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