Speech has become an accepted technology in many industries and would appear, for all its problems, to have a bright future in both its short term and long term outlooks. The short term excitement is generated by upcoming industry trade shows, and in the long term, researches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are pursuing a vision of information technology that puts speech technology at a central point for the 21st century. The immediate future for the speech industry is the upcoming SpeechTEK 99 show, scheduled for October 26-27 at the New York Hilton. In five years, SpeechTEK has become the industry’s leading showcase for new products and services in the speech industry. This year’s show should be the biggest and strongest ever, reflecting industry growth. Organizers are reported to be planning a West Coast version of the show for next spring. In the long term, speech is central to a vision of computing power as becoming ubiquitous and as free as the air we breath. In an event that drew the attention of Bill Gates, the 35th anniversary of the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT, some of the top computer scientists in the country discussed plans for project OXYGEN. The project has as its mission to make computers extremely simple and easy to use, and would forever change the idea of a computer as something that only sits on your desktop. While the research involved many aspects of computing, the overall vision requires speech recognition to become practical. Readers can gain a preview of both the short and long term future of the industry in stories that appear in this issue of the magazine. Articles in this issue also give our readers some insights into the current state of the industry. Readers can learn about the latest headsets and microphones in one of our feature articles. Another details the benefits of on-line handwriting recognition, as we continue our series of articles on advanced human interfaces. We also provide some insight into how "sequence packages" can aid language understanding, and in an article entitled "Tell Me About It," we give end users some valuable hints on how to make their dictation products more effective.
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