European Union Supports UK-led Consortium with Technology Research Grant

LONDON, UK - A UK-led consortium has been awarded a research grant by the European Union (EU) for the development of human language technologies. FASiL, an acronym for Flexible and Adaptive Spoken Language and Multi-modal Interface, is a €6.4 million two-year project to deliver an advanced and commercially attractive human language technology. The EU awarded a grant of €3.47 million as contribution to the FASiL consortium. FASiL is being funded through the Information Society Technologies (IST) program which has been established to realize the benefits of the information society in Europe. The FASiL consortium is led by Vox Generation, a British company. Vox Generation was responsible for initiating the project and for building a pan-European consortium of organizations with an impressive set of complementary skills. The consortium also includes two charities with a commitment to new technology as a means of making information available to all people, regardless of their abilities and preferences. Portugal Telecom Inovação will support Vox Generation in leading the project. The other consortium partners are: Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Sweden, SpeechWorks UK, Media Lab Europe, The University of Sheffield, The Royal National Institute for Deaf People and The Royal National Institute of the Blind. "Voice technology has come a long way over the last two years and now represents a powerful value proposition for businesses and consumers alike," says Simon Loopuit, chairman and chief executive officer of Vox Generation. "FASiL will expand the capabilities of today's most advanced systems by delivering a flexible and adaptive solution combining voice, image and text. The number of applications is endless and FASiL will benefit numerous industries ranging from automotive to call centres, travel, banking and data management. We will design the technology in order to facilitate access to information for all. This is consistent with the approach of the European Union which promotes the full participation of all citizens in our modern Information Society." The FASiL project intends to produce a truly conversational language engine, building on existing Vox Generation and SpeechWorks technology. The speech system is intended to understand and respond to questions posed by users and provide information in conversational English and in other selected European languages. Users can also interact with the system through text and images, allowing them to select the most effective way to access information and services. "Today, mobile phones are everywhere," continues Loopuit. "Voice is the obvious communication channel for people on the move. In FASiL, we believe that we are developing the major technological breakthrough required to push the realms of communication forward. FASiL will help organizations and individuals harness the power of 2.5G and 3G mobile networks and provide them with tools for the rapid development of new applications." Peter Walters, National Contact Point (NCP) for the Information Society Technologies Programme in the UK (UKISHelp) said: "If the quality of life and productivity of EU citizens is to be maintained and improved in an increasingly information dominated society, then people need access to information anywhere and any time. FASiL is indicative of the type of innovation the IST programme was established to encourage, and will go towards providing an expanding Europe with the intelligent landscape required for the seamless delivery of services and applications in multiple languages."
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