Speech Reconnaissance

[IMGCAP(1)] With apologies to my friend James Carville, I paraphrased his often-maligned quote from the 1992 presidential campaign to emphasize the theme of this edition of Speech Technology Magazine. It really is all about our customers and the experiences they derive from using speech technology in their everyday lives. How does it impact them? How does it make their lives better? How does it save them money? How does it improve revenues? And the many other questions they want answered when implementing a speech application. For speech providers, there are two sets of customers: the enterprise and its customer. Just getting the enterprise's acceptance is not enough to be successful. The person using the application must find it an acceptable and worthwhile experience. The services provided to those customers when they reach a speech application must be a satisfactory one, or they will not use it again. Paul Kowal's article delves into the issue of why a call center should use speech instead of Dual Tone Multi Frequency to better assist their customers. Specifically the article discusses the trade-off between automated customer service using speech and the more traditional DTMF. Our Industry Leader Series continues with Joe Yaworski and Dr. Huang describing their firms' focus on using speech to provide customers a way to make their lives better with speech technology. Both view speech technology as an application to better users' lives when they interact with an array of communication devices. Customers want access to information, and both believe speech technology provides the best methods of providing that access. Anna Karampahtsis writes about the wireless world and the trends that will stimulate increased use of speech technology in mobile devices. Anna makes an interesting prediction that, by year-end 2005, there will be 71 million users of voice portals. Bill Meisel discusses the fundamentals underlying the Voice Web and how the Voice User Interface opens the telephone up to the resources of the Internet. Jim Larson has an interesting story of how intelligent speech interfaces will enable users to communicate with people, appliances and other devices in the future. I suppose I would characterize his view of the future as the "ultimate in customer service." I will end this column echoing X.D. Huang's caution about the overhype and buildup of speech products. There are many reports of huge market potentials and be-all applications, but if speech companies deliver quality products to their customers, the world will respond. If we overhype some of the developments and market potentials, we do run the risk of echoing the "boy who cried wolf." The great thing about this industry is its vast potential to affect peoples' lives in such an extraordinary fashion. How exciting, and challenging, is our mission to provide a technology that will be embraced worldwide - if we implement it by keeping the customer in mind. [IMGCAP(2)]
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