Building the Interface of the Future

[IMGCAP(1)]As the worldwide speech marketing sales executive for IBM Speech Systems, Anne-Marie Derouault’s responsibilities include directing all worldwide marketing and sales efforts for IBM’s speech recognition business, including the ViaVoice family of products. She has been a key player in the speech recognition industry for over 15 years, long enough to regard the current industry buzzwords “Natural Language” with a sense of deja vu. “We are talking in 1998 about ‘natural language’ speech systems, and we were using that phrase when I first became involved in the speech industry,” she said. Researching speech issues has allowed her to pursue her academic interests in linguistics and mathematics. “And psychologically, I was motivated by the whole goal of making the computer easier to use.” Prior to joining IBM’s group in Boca Raton, FL. Derouault managed IBM’s European speech recognition sales strategy. In addition, she directed the development of the European releases of speech recognition applications. Derouault coordinated speech recognition research at various IBM scientific and development centers across Europe, including Paris, France; Hursley, United Kingdom; Rome, Italy; Heidelberg, Germany; and Seville, Spain. She also served as the European opportunity manager for Natural Languages Interfaces, where she directed the transfer of technology from the laboratory into the marketplace, was a research trainee and a research engineer in the French voice recognition research unit, and a manager of voice recognition, automatic translation, and natural language processing. She holds a doctorate degree in mathematics from the Ecole Normale Superieure de Jeunes Filles de Sevres and a bachelor of science in human sciences. Ms Derouault has been in the fore-front of a fast paced, fast moving industry, and yet in many ways her career is remarkable for its consistency. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to stay in the same domain at IBM,” she said during an interview at the ASAT show in San Jose. Its a good sign for the industry as well. “It shows I picked an area where things are growing.” It also shows she picked an area IBM regards as having great strategic importance. “Speech has raised a lot of expectations. Our target all along has been to make the technology more pervasive and we are doing that.” She points out that she has seen the price of speech drop exponentially in her time in the industry, with many of those drops coming in recent times. “In 1992, we sold speech systems at $5,000 per seat. By 1994 we were able to offer the product in a PC-based, stand-alone version for $1500. The next year it fell to the $700 range and in 1996 we rolled out Simply Speaking at about $100.” “Then in 1997 the continuous dictation product, ViaVoice, came out and we were determined to keep it in that price range. And of course this year, ViaVoice98 is available in three different editions.” ViaVoice has become one of the most successful speech recognition products ever. The move from discrete recognition to continuous, and then the accompanying price decrease have given speech recognition the mainstream acceptance it had been lacking. In her view, the next step for speech technology is the move toward natural language, as it is currently understood. Natural language will be important in many arenas. “We’re seeing speech develop in three areas of importance: the desktop, the telephone, and embedded in consumer products.” “Speech is the interface of the future. It will allow you to do things you were not able to do before,” she said.
SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues