Posts Tagged ‘open-source’

More speech on the iPhone

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

The iPhone has proved a game-changer in many regards and speech is no exception. Both Google and Yahoo (with vlingo) have deployed mobile speech applications for the iPhone.
Today I came across another sighting of iPhone speech recognition, Vocalia by Creaceed, employing open-source ASR engine Julius for back-end technology. There is no “push to talk” button but a “shake to retry”, which may prove useful when recognition goes awry. The app supports French, English and German for now and costs €2.99. Dictation is not available at this point, though Julius is certainly capable of it from an architecture point of view.

Other speech and language related iPhone apps:,

Has anyone used these extensively? What is your experience with speech on the iPhone?

Internationalization and Speech Technologies

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The not-so-subtle truth is, of course, that we all speak English. Yet localization and internationalization are at once prerequisite and stumbling stone for many web-based endeavors.

In my own backyard, two examples illustrate the effect and need for of internationalization, respectively. German professional social network XING has internationally outperformed competitors like LinkedIn through early and aggressive internationalization. StudiVZ – the “German Facebook” has gained much of the student social network market before Facebook decided to release a German version of its web app, making this a tough-to-crack market.

Ironically, as these two examples underline, the need for localization remains in cases where the demands on usability are low (join group/contact person/send message) and the target audience can largely be expected to speak sufficient English (read this for an interesting take on the same issues and solutions in online gaming.) Moreover, localization is an effort far greater than providing an interface in the local language.

As one expects, localization and internationalization and speech technology are inextricably linked – in a sense developing speech technologies is internationalization. And using such technology in professional service projects is akin to building a internationalized web application. Here are some of the oddities I’ve observed while working with speech technologies in an international environment:

Translation is not enough. When you write software that speaks or wants to be spoken to, there is more at stake than providing interface text. Can you expect all your users to spell input when your system doesn’t understand the raw speech input? Can you be sure that all your translated content will generate well-formed speech-synthesis output? Language and culture are sensitive issues, so a well-localized speech application must do more than provide translated user interface. Employing local staff is usually a minimum to building a speech application for a new market.

The cost shifts. Re-usability of resources from previous speech projects is usually low. So unlike localizing a web application, porting a speech application requires grunt work that you thought you had done the first time around. Moreover, speech applications in new languages almost always come with additional licensing burdens and questions about the appropriate technology partner. Expect to pay for things you didn’t expect.

There is no long tail. The buy-in costs for developing a new language in almost any speech or language technology (recognition, synthesis, translation) remain constant. This makes every newly developed language a strategic decision and translates into a two-tier localization effort: one developing basic technologies, one employing such technology in professional service projects.
As an example, the world’s most successful dictation software packages: Dragon Naturally Speaking ships in five flavors of English and six European languages. Philip’s Speech Magic ships in 23 dialects of 11 languages. Both a far cry from world-coverage.
The enormous cost of development has a decided effect on developing speech technology for lesser-spoken languages. And it has posed a significant hurdle as well for open-source initiatives of speech technologies to provide such resources for free.

News Redux & Building VoiceGlue

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I stumbled across some “traditional” news bits this week for speech and language technologies, representing most of the major and a few interesting minor market players . Yahoo is offering some kind of NLP-driven structured search for e-commerce solutions starting next year. A new bundled automatic translation software with automatic learning capabilities was announced by across Systems GmbH and Language Weaver. Loquendo is sponsoring a speech-for-in-car-navigation industry event. Persay, maker of voice authentication software, is shipping solutions securing Planet Payment’s voice-enabled payment processing. Lastly Nuance, continuing its acquisition spree, buys Viecore, a contact-center integration consulting company, indicating a clear focus on strengthening its traditional speech and telephony market position.

Recently I stumbled across and blogged about VoiceGlue, an integration of various GPL-licensed pieces of software, providing full IVR capabilities (including rudimentary speech synthesis but not recognition.) Well, last night, together with Christoph, I finally had a stab at it myself.
Our test setup involved running Fedora 9 virtualized in Mac OS X. Our Fedora installation was missing a few pieces of software beyond the indicated prerequisites, but after about an hour everything was under way.
The trickiest bit proved to be building various modules required for the XML parser (I presume needed later for VoiceGlue-customized DTMF grammar parser.) For some reason CPAN’s console kept conking out on us (claiming inexplicably missing/unbuildable prereqs), so after wrestling with that for some time, we decided to manually build all the modules ourself (hoorah, makefiles).
This worked like a charm, though we hit a snag with the Module::Build perl module, which required C_Support, which in turn required another perl module (ExtUtils-CBuilders), not mentioned in any documentation (scant across the board, though that’s half the fun, isn’t it).
After that, the VoiceGlue installation completed swiftly and all services started running after a minimal bit of configuration.
Next week we’ll be back with some test calls and our first impressions. In the meanwhile we’ll keep our eyes peeled for ASR integration (LumenVox/Sphinx), which will make this a truly valuable stab at open sourcing some of the most expensive carrier-grade technology out there.

Back in the saddle with MSFT, GOOG and VoiceGlue

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Back after an extensive break. Been working hard on some of my own multi-modal ideas. Keep your eyes peeled.
Looks like it’s been a quiet fall, speech and language technology-wise. After GOOG-411, Microsoft has also added speech to their search engine endeavors (if in a different domain) by speech-enabling Live Search for mobile users. Nuance continues to consolidate the speech tech market.
Exciting news on the IVR front. Finally a serious attempt to integrate various open-source technologies to provide free carrier-grade speech/telephone services is under way. VoiceGlue has managed to combine OpenVXI (VXML browser), Flite (Speech Synthesis) on Asterisk and is planning to integrate Sphinx2 for speech recognition. All components would then be available under some form of the GPL. Could this herald a change in availability of speech telephone platforms for developers unwilling to dish out horrendous per-port costs? Something to follow, anyway.
Lastly, here‘s an article describing the growing role of speech in warehouse management.

News are back…

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Ok, I’m back from vacation and finally sorted through some of the recent developments in the speech world. Going forward I will probably post longer but less frequent tidbits here.

Biggest recent speech news is the acquisition of VoiceSignals, broadening their mobile end user market as well as adding some nifty voice features in short messaging and mobile phone usability.
On related news, here is a short article describing the role of speech in unified messaging.
Lastly, here is a description of progress on open-source telephony and speech recognition.

Daily News Redux…

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

On the WWW today:

Three Observations about Recent Language Technology News

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

To start us off, recent experience has shown three things:

  1. Speech (i.e. voice) related news is TTS-dominated, less so by ASR.
  2. The company featured most frequently in the news is Nuance.
  3. The talk of semantic search engines seems to dominate the NLP news.

The success of TTS is largely due to requirements set by mobile and in-car technologies, especially GPS and communications. The future of ASR in the other hand seems to depend on the dictation market (especially in the healthcare sector) and a growing relevance of network ASR (driven by advancing VoIP, impact of multi-modal applications).

Nuance’s continued position will depend on the role of “super players” IBM and Microsoft and to a lesser degree the role of open-source initiatives, especially on the network/telephony side.

Semantic search engines recently got some media hype with “Google-Killer” Powerset, a PARC offspring. While in its infancy, some believe this development towards semantic web will usher in a Web3.0 revolution. Of course, soem others believe this has already begun, while yet more just wanna see what happens with all this.

Let’s see how these trends develop. Especially multi-modality and semantic searches will be issues to follow closely.