It’s funny how life sometimes imitates fiction.
For decades voice recognition devices in science fiction films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, or TV series like Knight Rider intrigued us. They seemed so, well, far out. But now, natural language voice recognition technology is becoming part of our daily routine.
Thanks to products like Apple’s Siri, this technology is entering a new phase. It’s increasingly becoming an everyman’s tool and is widely expected to penetrate more aspects of daily life in the coming years. That, in turn, is likely to dramatically improve opportunities for natural language speech scientists, especially as the technology becomes more complex and nuanced, and gains the ability to understand the speaker’s context.
“The field of natural language is going from a small niche to a much broader one,” says Ben Lillienthal, co-founder of One Tok, a New York-based software platform company that’s aggressively carving out a niche as a leader in the creation of platforms for voice-enabled apps.
In particular, voice technology specialists should have strong backgrounds in linguistics, artificial intelligence and computer science, says Lillienthal. Experience with statistics and role-based modeling can also be helpful. For the most part, programs are written in C++ and Voice XML.
Lillienthal sees the growing sophistication and widespread use of natural language speech technology as an outgrowth of the evolution of computing. “Computing processing power is now so fast that you can do things that make computers seem like they’re smart,” he says. An important piece of the puzzle is to develop programs that allow the technology to “model an entire range of human expression.”
Image: Stanford University