Voice Recognition Still Struggling

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Reasons Wi-Fi Will Overtake Traditional Telecoms

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is known as a time that nothing much happens. This year, however, the holidays were on Wednesdays, which created more opportunity for some news and commentary to sneak through at both the beginning and end of the week. Here are some highlights:

The Health and Wellness Connected Device Market

It has long been apparent that one of the great matches in modern telecommunications and IT is health care and mobility. That point was echoed in a report from the Consumer Electronics Association and Parks Associates that predicted that the sales, software and service revenue from connected health and wellness products will rise 142 percent during the next five years.


Shipment figures will grow accordingly:

More than 40 million personal health and wellness products are expected to sell in 2013, a figure that will rise to more than 70 million by 2018. Product sales and software and service revenues will see the largest growth, generating more than $3.3 billion in revenue in 2013 and more than $8 billion by 2018.

The release cites great interest by the consumer electronics industry, which could drive the numbers even higher.

Broadband Rising

The Internet Access Services report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shows a significant increase in access to broadband. Two caveats we should be aware of: The FCC sets the broadband bar low and the numbers in the report, though the latest available, are a year old.

Still, the report contains good news. The FCC reports that at the end of 2012, 69.7 percent of Internet connections were at broadband speeds: 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 768 kilobits per second (kbps) upstream. Six months earlier, 64 percent of connections met those speeds. In the mobile sector, 37.8 percent were deemed to be at broadband speeds, which beat the mid 2012 figure by 9.8 percent.

Another Connectivity Approach

GigaOm reports that the Open Technology Institute, a project of the New America Foundation, is set to release Commotion 1.0. The idea is to create mesh networks independent of ISPs or other established networks:

Commotion was originally designed as a means to circumscribe government censorship and surveillance on the internet, but the scope of the project quickly expanded to include extending access to areas where broadband was unavailable or unaffordable. Commotion combines technologies like the Serval Project’s mesh networking and Tor’s identity shielding software to create secure distributed networks made up of smartphones, routers, servers and other nodes.

The story says that the project was driven by Sascha Meinrath, OTI’s vice president for North America. The idea is that established service providers artificially constrict broadband availability. Meinrath’s thinking is that the problem can be solved by enabling people to communally share a bit of bandwidth.

Could You Repeat and Repeat and Repeat That, Please…

James Kendrick at ZDNet offers a rather downbeat update on voice recognition. The reality, according to Kendrick, is that the category hasn’t made too much progress, and that people don’t really care:

We now have speech recognition on smartphones, tablets, and PCs, but aside from dictating short phrases few owners are using it. Apple's introduction of Siri and her voice-centric input rekindled interest briefly in speech input. While you'd often see someone speaking to Siri in the beginning, I can't remember the last time I've seen it.

Currently, speech recognition technology is a bit more than 90 percent accurate. That sounds good on first glance. But it means, however, that still about one out of every 10 words is incorrectly translated.

Poor Humor

And, finally, comes a story that hopefully won’t be repeated where I live. In the Swedish town of Eslov, the local residents complained that the tunes played by ice cream trucks are too loud. The Engelholm ice cream company, CNET reports, responded by turning off the volume. Instead, texts are sent to homes when the truck arrives.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 26, 2014 5:06 PM Vijay Vijay  says:
I have been working with Google's recognizer and initially felt that it did not recognize things too well www.jaivox.com/googlelangs.html (I reviewed it for 10 languages.) But recently I have found that in many applications, you can fix the errors and get over 99% accuracy (test is described in www.jaivox.com/phoneticdistance.html ) Thus speech recognition may be quite viable with some context-sensitive corrections. Reply

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