It's a Multimodal, Multilingual World

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Smartphone adoption is pushing the speech boundaries. According to The Wall Street Journal, Research In Motion sold about 500,000 BlackBerry Storms in that device’s first month on the market—and about the same number in the second month. Apple sold a million 3G iPhones in just one weekend—to a marketplace that already had a sizeable number of first-generation iPhones. These numbers are staggering and clearly show that consumers are not only comfortable using smartphones and Web-enabled mobile devices, they’re eager to use them. As this continues, how will it affect the speech technology industry? 

Unlike traditional phone lines, smartphones enable the pairing of visual and voice modalities. Does this mean that multimodal solutions will replace speech solutions? On the contrary, many experts suggest that multimodal solutions will not compete with, but enhance, speech solutions. In the feature story, “Will Multimodal Kill the Speech Star?," by Adam Boretz, one industry expert says, “It’s no longer whether multimodal, but in what form,” adding “We really find the relevance of speech has increased along with this trend.” 

To be effective, though, a lot of bandwidth is required to send video to mobile devices and collect speech and multichannel input from these devices. Currently, the United States, which is using third-generation (3G) mobile technology, lags behind many regions in the world that already use faster 4G mobile technology. One area where 4G mobile technology is prevalent is in the European market, which is why we are dedicating much of this issue to the latest developments and challenges there.

In the cover story, “On the Move,” by Adam Boretz, one industry expert says, “More and more consumers are massively moving to smartphones, so we need to change the paradigm and move from IVR technology to some other technology that involves not only speech, but also other input modalities.” 

While the European market may be ahead of the United States in mobile networking technology, other challenges prevail when it comes to text-to-speech (TTS), such as the many cultural and language barriers. (See some humorous translation mistakes in the “Localization Lacking” sidebar in Leonard Klie’s feature story “When in Rome...”). Another growing challenge with TTS? Customers are demanding more personalization, according to Sue Ellen Reager’s column, “TTS Finds Global Media.” One industry pundit in Reager’s column says, “It is all about personalizing the experience, yet being consistent with whatever the customer or prospect is doing, in multiple languages.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the latest speech developments in Europe and networking with some speech technology vendors and practitioners, attend SpeechTEK Europe (May 26–27) at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London. To register, go to www.SpeechTEK.com/Europe2010.

David Myron is editorial director of Speech Technology magazine. He can be reached at dmyron@infotoday.com.

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