On SpeechTEK's Third Day, Hollywood Challenges the Industry

Val Matula, senior director and head of emerging technologies at Avaya.

But it goes beyond that: "WebRTC will bring some sort of a renaissance to voice," said Tobias Goebel, director of mobile strategy and product manager for WebRTC at Aspect Software.

But before that can happen, some of the bigger names in computing will have to get on board. So far, Google and Mozilla support the WebRTC platform, but Apple and Microsoft do not. "In time, you will see all the Web browser companies support it," says Dan Burnett, director of standards at Voxeo.

Matula agrees, noting that companies that have yet to adopt it will soon "follow the money," as the world "moves toward working on the Web and communicating right within the [browser]."

And, as more communications and other speech applications move to the Web, open-source applications will become more commonplace, according to Deborah Dahl, chair of the Worldwide Web Consortium's Multimodal Interactions Working Group and principal at Conversational Technologies. "With so many devices proliferating like crazy, more and more things will need to be accessible," she said during a morning session on application development with open-source solutions. "With so much information coming from the Web, we have this whole ecosystem that lets us do so many things with spoken dialogue systems."

It's in this environment where a lot of technologies are also converging, panelists at the morning keynote session agreed.

"There's a confluence of a lot of technologies: natural language, machine learning, speech, artificial intelligence," said Michael Karasick, vice president of innovations for the Watson Group at IBM. "It's all coming together so we can do a lot of really cool things."

He and other panelists maintained that speech is becoming pervasive. "The current technology and where it's headed is toward anytime, anywhere, on any device, by anyone," said Juan Gilbert, a professor in the computer and information science and engineering department at the University of Florida. "Soon we’ll be able to speak to our refrigerator, our house, our car."

Karasick also noted that the next few years will be the most interesting. "We're at the beginning of the journey to make computers that can do great things for us," he said.

And, unlike Hollywood's portrayal of the technology, "computers will increasingly be our partners rather than our enemies," added Bill Meisel, president of TMA Associates. "Natural language processing will allow a closer connection between people and technology, and mobile allows us to take it anywhere."

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