Speech: The New Must-Have Solution

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Speech-enabled consumer technologies are getting faster and easier to use. So it’s little wonder why innovative implementations of the technology are cropping up in the consumer market. The entertainment industry, for example, has been particularly creative in its uses of the technology. Several of these advancements are included in this issue.

Let’s start with our cover story, “The Gift of Speech." Editorial Assistant Kathleen Savino writes about recent advancements of speech technologies in consumer products. Google, for example, updated its Android mobile operating system to incorporate more uses of speech technology. This advancement piqued my interest because when I purchased my Motorola Droid smartphone, which uses the Android operating system, the built-in GPS navigation application was not speech-enabled. That seemed odd to me considering it’s intended for use while driving. Sure, you can argue that drivers should enter the destination before they set out on their trips so they are not distracted while driving. Then again, sometimes, plans change while driving, requiring drivers to enter a new destination. Also, who hasn’t experienced a lost GPS signal? It’s never pleasant when you’re on an unfamiliar highway and your automated navigator goes silent. Now, however, drivers can simply speak their destinations while driving. What I also find impressive about this upgrade is that I didn’t have to research for and find it. I was notified when it was available; at the click of a button I quickly upgraded my phone at my convenience.  

The cover story includes other advancements, such as the Kia UVO, Kia’s response to Ford Sync. The software aims to make it easier to find and play music in a Kia without specifying the source (i.e., radio, Zune, or MP3 player). 

Consumers are also being exposed to more speech technology at the movies. Admittedly, the last idea you might expect to succeed is one that encourages audience members to talk on their cell phones during a movie. But what if audience members are talking to the female protagonist in the movie—and she responds? That would be pretty cool, no? That’s what the producers of the German horror movie Last Call have bet on. Much like Edward Packard’s choose-your-own-adventure children’s books from the 1980s and 1990s, Last Call enables viewers to determine the outcome of the plot. At a time when the film industry is competing with home entertainment theaters and a rebounding economy, this makes a compelling case for going out to the movies. For more examples on how the entertainment industry is using speech technology, read the feature “Now That’s Entertainment,” also by Kathleen Savino. 

As successful uses of speech technologies become more prevalent in our society they will change the way people work and play. As such, consumers’ perception of speech technology will change from being an obstacle that should be avoided to a nice-to-have technology and eventually to a must-have solution.

David Myron is editorial director of Speech Technology magazine. He can be reached at dmyron@infotoday.com.

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