Think Globally, Act Locally: AVIOS Evolving

AVIOS (Applied Voice Input/Output Society) was launched as a non-profit society for speech technology professionals nearly 25 years ago. Speech recognition and synthesis were not widely deployed at the time, and there were no forums for interested parties to convene and share "best practices." Leon Lerman, the founder of AVIOS, noted this gap and set off to address it. As AVIOS grew, it became the conference for anyone with an interest in speech technology application - end-users, application developers, researchers, academics, systems integrators, etc.

Through the years, speech technology has become mainstream. Researchers today have a range of conference options that focus on the underlying technologies that feed into speech solutions. Application developers can segment themselves by industry. Yet there is still value in bringing together diverse professional interests in a single speech forum, for continued opportunities to identify synergies, and to leverage advances in one application area across others. Sharing best-practice experience broadly is good for the community, as well as for the individual that learns something new.

AVIOS continues to evolve, in phase with speech technology applications. Many professionals immersed in speech application decisions on a regular basis need more from a professional society than just an annual conference and printed proceedings. AVIOS user surveys indicate that speech technology professionals find the most value in networking opportunities with others in the field. To address this, AVIOS is introducing a number of new opportunities for our community to "engage." The AVIOS Web site - http://www.avios.org/ - now includes a range of speech technology teaching materials, access to previous AVIOS proceedings and best papers, illustrative examples of successful speech applications, quarterly "Road Shows," and discounts to speech technology literature and conferences.

To address the need for more frequent networking opportunities, AVIOS is supporting the creation of local chapters. This will provide a forum for people interested in speech technology across all dimensions - research, application development, or marketing - to convene more frequently and to learn more about advances in their own region or to provide a forum for visiting speakers.

I am currently forming such a chapter in the New York metropolitan area, and so I can share this vision as it evolves. We anticipate that our local chapter will meet bi-monthly, at rotating sites in our region. Corporations involved in speech technology will host these meetings (which involves providing space, drinks, and snacks), and arrange for speakers. To encourage diversity of interests at these chapter meetings, more than one presentation will be encouraged. This will be followed by lots of "white space," giving participants the opportunity to meet informally and exchange ideas.

Local chapters are also currently forming in Israel and in Germany. We would like to leverage best practices, and share them across our worldwide speech community. Towards that end, AVIOS will be creating a "volunteer speakers' bureau." When AVIOS members travel on business trips, we will create an opportunity for them to post their itineraries on a site open to AVIOS local chapter leaders. This will expand the opportunity to bring in experts on particular topics to local chapter meetings. We hope this will be an easy, low-cost way for speakers to find audiences, and audiences to find speakers.

The first NY/NJ/CT local chapter meeting was held on June 3, hosted by IBM. This was launched as a "mini-conference," entitled "Speech Technology: Captioning, Transcription, and Beyond." Speakers from IBM and other parts of the world presented information on the state of transcription technology, and novel applications that increase accessibility for all.

If you are in the NY metropolitan area, we invite you to join our local chapter - you can sign up at http://www.nynj.avios.org/ and you will be notified about upcoming events. If the local AVIOS chapter concept appeals to you, perhaps you can be the catalyst that starts one in your area. AVIOS will provide you with a starter kit: including Web site design assistance, space and domain to host your local chapter site, a discussion forum, and email distribution capabilities. As we communicate, share, and network, we will improve ourselves and the speech technology community overall.

We would appreciate your suggestions about how to maximize the value of local chapters. If you have ideas, or would like to create a local chapter in your area, please contact info@nynj.avios.org.

Sara Basson works at IBM Research, focusing on accessible service offerings. She has more than a decade of experience in designing and evaluating automated customer services using speech recognition and synthesis technologies at NYNEX Science and Technology (now Verizon). She holds a doctorate in speech and hearing sciences from the Graduate Center of CUNY, and a master's from NYU's Stern School of Business. Basson has served on the AVIOS board of directors for 13 years.

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