Speech Turns the Internet Community into a Global Village

Speech, as the most natural interface, offers a great opportunity to enhance Internet communication for users. Several major companies have announced plans to offer Internet related speech applications, and more are planned.

In addition, advances in multi lingual speech applications are destroying what was once thought to be a truism of the Internet - that in the future the world will speak only one language, because English was the language of the Internet.

However, with the rapid advance of speech technology into many different languages, speech, besides being natural, is also becoming global. Speech can do more than improve productivity for non-English speaking Internet users: it can open up the world for them.

Nortel recently announced the creation of Nortel OpenSpeech - a new business initiative intended to make webtone a reality to consumers. Open Speech offers an open platform solution which allows businesses to rapidly design and deploy speech-activated applications over the Internet, wireless and traditional wired networks.

“Nortel’s speech recognition technology, which currently processes over two billion telephone calls a year in North America, is now ready for the global village,” said Rajiv Pancholy, vice-president and general manager of Nortel’s OpenSpeech.

“For the first time, Nortel is bringing its experience and flagship technology to a much broader spectrum of users. Application developers can now benefit from Nortel’s Internet-ready, multi-lingual speech processing products to build the next-generation computer-telephony services that suit their particular needs,” he said.

Nortel’s OpenSpeech product portfolio includes state-of-the-art software and DSP speech recognition engines, Internet-ready codes which bring speech recognition to voice-over-the-Internet (VoIP) and Nortel’s award-winning Media Framework, an easy-to-use dialogue and service creation toolkit to help developers build new applications.

For more information, contact Pierre Boisseau at Nortel, 514 765-7994, or visit Nortel on the web at http://www.nortel.com/openspeech.

A Net of Many Languages

Issues relating to globalization of the Internet were behind two recent moves by Lernout & Hauspie. The company has begun offering a translation service which makes the web more accessible to non-English speaking users, and invested heavily in a company specializing in localization software.

L&H has announced its iTranslator service, which simplifies and increases access to Web content for non-English speaking persons. The product, which in beta was code named Coronado, is an intelligent search and translation interface that delivers web documents in different languages.

It provides fast, accurate and comprehensive Internet search and language translation. It is slated to begin providing translation for English, German, Spanish and French languages this summer.

Future editions will offer support for Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese. L&H expects the product to be most attractive to large businesses, academic institutions and researchers, and regular Internet users whose first language is not English, or who are involved in global markets.

“The last major hurdle to worldwide adoption of the Web is the ability to communicate,” said Rick Korfin, director of strategic business development at L&H. “The majority of global corporations, academics and serious researchers today require worldwide reach and global access to Web content.”

A major difference between iTranslator and other Internet search services available today is that search queries do not have to be entered in English. Instead, users enter a query in any of the supported languages. The query is then translated and the search conducted across all selected Internet search resources in all supported languages.

Before search results are returned they are translated into the language that was used for the query. As a result, users need no knowledge of languages other than their own, and they receive a broad range of results based on a multilingual search.

iTranslator’s searches are also more comprehensive because the service fully leverages the Internet’s search capabilities. The product has support for 35 different Internet search engines or indexes. Use of multiple search engines, combined with the ability to conduct a single search in multiple languages, significantly increases the amount of relevant information returned to the user.

Of course, machine translation is not perfect. If iTranslator users desire a more detailed translation, they may take advantage of a premium service consisting of machine translation with human post-editing, or complete human translation. Human translation services are offered on-line and will leverage the expertise of L&H’s Mendez translation group.

For more information about iTranslator visit L&H’s web site at www.lhs.com or call 1-888-Lernout, ext. 5336.

Adding a Local Accent

L&H also has invested $4 million to acquire 24.5% of the outstanding shares of Accent Software, a Colorado Springs company specializing in localization software

“Accent’s localization and globalization software tools will enhance our human translation services nicely and complement our efforts in L&H’s Language Technologies Division,” said Gaston Bastiaens, president and CEO of Lernout & Hauspie.

“As international markets continue to expand, the demand for non-English products and information will rapidly increase. Companies are going to require sophisticated localization tools to reach new audiences via the Internet and traditional market channels. Our combined offerings will help companies overcome these language barriers,” said Todd Oseth, president and CEO of Accent Software International.

Renown futurist Esther Dyson is a director of Accent and the chairman of EDventure Holdings. “I invested in Accent Software because of its technology team, not just its technology,” she said. “Now I am really excited to see them leveraged by L&H’s worldwide presence, technology and marketing and sales expertise. It’s a very promising combination.”

Accent develops language information technology products for many different media, including software applications, e-mail and web authoring.

For more information, contact Lernout & Hauspie at 781 203 5341, or apobre@lhs.com or Accent Software at 719 576 2610 or toddo@accentsoft.com.

Will Saycons Replace Icons?

Conversa (Conversation Computing Corporation) recently introduced Conversa Web 2.0, an upgrade to its software that lets you surf the Web with your own voice.

With Conversa Web™ you can speak naturally and the Conversa Web takes the user from hot link to hot link instantaneously. Conversa Web is speaker-independent, so there is no need to train the computer to recognize a user’s voice.

Conversa’s proprietary speech engine offers the most accurate speech control yet achieved for personal computers. Also, because Conversa Web allows hands-free Internet browsing, people with physical disabilities, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can use the Web without discomfort.

All that is required is a multi-media PC with a microphone. To activate any link, just say it as it appears on the screen. Conversa Web lets the user know that the command was understood by temporarily highlighting the link and playing a short audio sound before going to the link. The voice power meter, a thin bar of color located just below the browser window, gives visual feedback as it reacts to the volume of the user’s voice.

Saycons are a unique feature of the Conversa Web. Similar to icons, saycons are activated through a mouse click, or by simply saying them. Some examples:

•Go Back 1-3 page(s)
•Go Forward 1-3 page(s)
•Stop Loading
•Refresh Page
•Go to Home Page
•Search the Web
•Show Favorites
•Add to Favorites
•Print this Page
•Conversa Help Me
•Conversa Go to Sleep.

Conversa Web listens and responds until told to stop. The user has complete control over the program. The system is compatible with Windows 98. It offers a “Take me to” link for favorite links, and a type and talk feature which enables users to run other applications manually while simultaneously operating Conversa Web.

Conversational Computing Corp. said recently that the product has already had a high level of acceptance among retailers, including CompUSA, Best Buy, MicroWarehouse, Computer City and Micro Center, as well as many other top 100 retailers throughout North America. The company also noted that Ingram Micro is distributing Conversational Computing’s voice-enabled software throughout North America.

“This high-level of acceptance from the retail channel is a true sign that we have our fingers on the pulse of the industry,” said Dan Bovee, director, retail channel sales. “We have found that consumers are excited about accomplishing tasks by speaking to a computer, and the channel has consistently seen other voice recognition products fly off the shelves.”

Also, the company announced that the Conversa Web 2.0 was named “Most Outstanding Desktop Software Product” at 1998’s Spring Internet World trade show.

For more information, contact Conversa at 8522 154th Ave., NE Redmond, WA 98052 or call 888-487-4373 or on the web at http://www.conversa.com.

New TAPI Board for Compression over Net

Micro-Integration Corp. has announced the recent release of the new multi-channel CTPlus voice/fax board, a robust and powerful 4-port development platform. CTPlus is the first 4-channel voice/fax board to include multi-port hardware-level TrueSpeech voice compression and offer high-quality voice capabilities over low-bandwidth Internet connections.

According to Ed Fisher, Vice President of Development, “True-Speech technology uses higher levels of compression to produce smaller, more compact sound files. It makes CTPlus the only multi-channel board that can deliver real-time voice with low latency over low-bandwidth Internet connections, with voice quality levels equal to that provided over a regular telephone line.”

CTPlus supports the Microsoft Telephony Applications Programming Interface (TAPI) and works with today’s most popular telephony programming tools.

For more information, contact Micro-Integration Corp. One Science Park, Frostburg, MD 21532; 800-832-4526 or on the web at http://www.miworld.com.

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