The Appliances Have Ears

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TV navigation technologies from Nuance Communications, ActiveVideo, and Vlingo turned more than a few tech enthusiasts' heads at last year's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The show helped set into motion some partnerships that would soon bring speech technology into our living rooms.

Within a week of the show, Nuance announced that its Dragon TV platform provides the voice recognition capabilities of the LG Magic Remote for the LG CINEMA 3D Smart TV. Shortly after the LG agreement, Nuance announced that Dragon TV would voice-enable Panasonic digital TVs as well. And, by the end of the year, Nuance and LG announced plans to add natural language capabilities to their listening clickers.

Using Nuance's voice and natural language understanding capabilities, Dragon TV viewers could find content by speaking channel numbers, station names, and show and movie names. While I'm not yet convinced that barking at my TV is a better way to channel surf than thumbing my remote, it certainly has its advantages for targeted search. Navigating through my TV's search screen and painstakingly pressing every letter in the name, or type of show I'm looking for is a hassle that will only get more cumbersome as digital TVs offer access to more shows, movies, music, and Internet and social media content.

So there is some value in speech-enabling digital televisions, but what about other household appliances? Wouldn't it be great if we could use our voice to dim the lights, preheat the oven, adjust the thermostat, or unlock the front door? How far away are we from a speech-enabled home? This is what inspired our cover story, "Speech Finds a Home," by News Editor Leonard Klie.

In fact, we're not the only ones who think about this. The creators of the Distant Speech Interaction for Robust Home Applications (DIRHA) project, launched last year, had a similar concept in mind when they set out to create the speech-enabled home. The program, which will last three years, will investigate and test solutions for voice-enabled interaction with machines in "smart homes."

According to industry insiders, these smart-home technologies aren't too far out of reach, even for consumers. Read our cover story to find out what needs to happen to make speech-enabled homes a reality and which vendors are leading the way.


If you find these types of speech technology developments intriguing, then mark your calendar for the SpeechTEK conference (August 19–21, 2013) at the New York Marriott Marquis. Visit www.speechtek.com for updates on the largest speech technology conference in the United States.

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