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Before Siri: The History of Talking To Computers

Before Siri: The History of Talking To Computers
The story of speech recognition so far

Siri is a breakthrough in speech recognition and control, but we've been talking to computers since the 1950s, with varying degrees of success - and machines have been talking back to us since the 1930s. The story of how we’ve made computers (and phones and cars, and soon home appliances) listen and talk is as fascinating as the results, with scandal and fraud as well as breakthroughs; military history and specialized - and secret - tools for the intelligence service are as much a part of it as university and commercial labs. Hollywood showed futuristic talking computers decades before they were possible but the music and film industry has also pushed developments in artificial speech and sound. Here’s how we got to Siri – and beyond.

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  • 5 Hide
    _Cubase_ , February 24, 2012 1:51 AM
    And then came GlaDOS...
  • 0 Hide
    LORD_ORION , February 24, 2012 3:17 PM
    You seemed to have missed some key technology points that people should know in your bird's eye view.
    -How big a dictionary file the engines can run is important- Can your engine recognize 100 words in a grammar file? What about 1000? How much does this cost to increase? (it is astronomical)
    -How fast the engine is, because results are based on multiple recognition attempts and averaged together. eg: If you do 1 n-best result your accuracy is going to average around 70%, while if you return recognition results 10+ times on the same phrase, you start hitting the 95% average mark.
    -How much effort has been put into determining an accent successfully and then interpreting the results based on the accent. (again, Nuance is 1 million miles agreed of everyone in this department, and is also probably why they can afford to charge so much)
    Limitations- Alpha-Numerics are ridiculously difficult to recognize without limiting user input options. eg: Reading an account number B,3,E.... there is a good chance that there will be a bad recognition unless you start pigeonholing the user input. eg: Nerds create an algorithm in the speeechrec grammar that the 1st entity is a letter, second a number, third a letter... then further fine tune it to eliminate similar sounding entries. eg: 1st is a letter, can't be 'G" so when you say "G" it returns a "B"

    Speechrec has a long way to go....
  • 0 Hide
    lockhrt999 , February 24, 2012 4:53 PM
    Apple imagined Siri like voice recognition/assistant in 1987 and they got it pretty much right in 2011. I wouldn't say this on any other day, Hat's off to apple.
  • 1 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , February 25, 2012 6:24 PM
    Speech recognition?

    If my machine was using that I wouldn't have to click "See More" 30 times.
  • 1 Hide
    JackFrost860 , February 25, 2012 7:45 PM
    "Before Siri" as if somehow we now have speech recognition! Let us not pretend that we are even close. For those that doubt, please see real world example:
  • 1 Hide
    dameon51 , February 27, 2012 8:34 AM
    Don't forget about "Hey You Pikachu" on the n64!
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , February 28, 2012 5:25 AM
    The 1978 Odyssey² game console had an add-on in 1982 which added speech synthesizes... so cursing was funny when you were 11 or so.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , February 28, 2012 6:41 AM
    The future...? In Four Words.

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