The 2011 Speech Luminaries

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Connecting, Naturally
Zig Serafin
Gneral Manager of the Speech Group at Microsoft

The growth of connected devices, in everything from cars to mobile phones, is ushering in a broad technology shift toward more integrated, natural experiences driven by speech, touch, and gesture. In the past year, no one has been more prominent in that effort than Zig Serafin, general manager of the Speech Group at Microsoft. His focus on the Tellme platform, which Microsoft acquired in 2007, has led to a larger share of the speech market, new revenue streams, and fundamental changes in how people stay connected.

One product that has transformed how people interact with devices is Kinect for the Xbox 360 videogame console, which Microsoft released in November. Kinect incorporates voice technologies that can be employed to control devices and games and conduct headset-free party chats over Xbox Live. Kinect also allows users to control their televisions through voice, enabling them to call up ESPN, for example, by saying what they would like to watch.

Also during the fall, Microsoft released Windows Phone 7, which integrates speech into the phone for functions such as search, navigation, and dialing. On Windows Phone 7 devices, users of the Bing voice search technology will be able to ask, “Who is pitching for the Giants tonight?” and get a listing of pitchers, as well as ticket and weather information.

Microsoft also expanded the voice search capabilities of Bing, and users have embraced the change. In fact, one in five searches on Bing for Mobile is performed by voice.

Moreover, feeding off its success with the Ford Sync and MyTouch automotive telematics systems, Microsoft and Kia codeveloped the UVO multimedia and infotainment system, which the Korean automaker rolled out in its new Sportage, Sorento, and Optima models late last year. UVO lets users access media content and connect with people through  quick voice commands without having to navigate hierarchical menus.

As user interfaces get further integrated into technology, customers will be able to interact more naturally—in front of the TV, in the car, on the go with their mobile devices, or when interacting with businesses through customer-care applications. If Serafin has anything to say about it (pun intended), Microsoft will continue to be at the center of it all.
—Leonard Klie


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