The 2016 Speech Industry Star Performers: Nuance

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Nuance Is in Hot Pursuit of Mobile and the Internet of Things

A longtime leader in dictation, industry heavyweight Nuance Communications has used 2016 to begin a strong foray into consumer electronics while diversifying its transcription product set considerably. Confident in its ability to provide accurate speech-to-text transcription and speech recognition, the company has been investing in more effective dialogue management through the pursuit of machine learning, deep neural network modeling, and other forms of cognitive computing in anticipation of a user that will not only expect intelligent transcriptions, but intelligent responses.

“We see a huge opportunity in driving specific capabilities into verticals that need unique feature capabilities,” says Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager of Dragon for Nuance. The company began by spinning off its popular Dragon line of dictation/transcription products into Dragon Legal Group between December 2015 and January of this year. The product is expressly targeted to legal professionals, as the name implies, and features a specialized vocabulary of more than 400 million words. Shortly thereafter, in March, the product was enhanced by Dragon Legal Individual and rebuilt to synchronize with Dragon Anywhere, a mobile dictation solution the company released the same month.

“Dragon Anywhere fills a hole in the industry,” Mahoney continues. “Anybody with a smartphone has access to baked-in dictation on their device, but those applications are designed for small utterances and close-enough accuracy: emails, texts, short notes, and the like. What we realized at Nuance was that there was a whole customer base that needed access to long-form, accurate transcription on-the-fly.”

And while the original target for Dragon Anywhere was lawyers, Mahoney says that Nuance was surprised by the variety of users that came to the program. “Since we launched in March, we’ve seen not just lawyers but social service case workers, insurance agents, and even writers flock to Dragon Anywhere,” Mahoney states. While Nuance is still testing the waters with these new users, there are now plans for more marketing to them, as well as to public safety workers such as police officers, security guards, and detectives—anyone who might require dictation in the field.

Following this trend in mobility, Nuance released Nina for Messaging in May, and the Velocity documentation platform for Dragon Medical in June. Velocity combines mobile-based dictation for ambulatory medical professionals along with powerful template capability to increase speed of documentation for routine procedures; Nina for Messaging brings the power of Nuance’s natural language understanding to applications like texting, Facebook, and more.

It’s the second route, natural language understanding, that has been Nuance’s main path into consumer electronics. This year, Nuance has released Dragon TV, a suite of voice-control capabilities optimized for entertainment, and Dragon Mix, a software development kit designed to give developers access to the data, tools, and machine learning of Nuance’s speech technology.

“Dragon Mix is a very important platform,” Mahoney emphasizes, noting that it was created with an eye toward the Internet of Things. “We’re leveraging the fact that it’s a very extensible platform to allow people to integrate it into other applications,” he says. “As intelligent assistance becomes more widespread, failing to have an integrated voice control for multiple devices is going to become more of a hindrance. Hopefully Mix can help with that.” While Mix does not support any of Nuance’s medical or legal products, many other products, like Dragon TV and Dragon Drive, were refreshed to run on the platform when it was released in May.

It is with this standardization that Nuance is making significant inroads into the Internet of Things outside of the United States. In June, Dragon TV launched as the voice technology behind Portugal’s NOS set-top box. And Nuance has already partnered with SAIC Motor, in China, to install Dragon Drive into its Roewe RX5 vehicles, which will begin rolling off the lots this August.

With this in mind, Nuance is also pursuing partnerships with Honeywell and other innovative companies to become the back-end solution to speech in various devices. Next year is mapped to be a year of the company advancing into more of a global consumer presence, and watchers of the company should look for it to broaden its already robust language support as demand grows. 

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