If you've been misunderstood by a voice response system, you know voice recognition is a work in progress. But at a recent "Speech Day" in New York, IBM showed how voice applications are improving.
A demo of T. Rowe Price's 401K Plan Line, which uses the new "freeform command recognition" in IBM's WebSphere Voice Server, showed that a customer can ask how much he has invested in a growth fund, then ask, "How is it performing?" The system connects the "it" to the fund in the previous question. Miami Children's Hospital's chief of cardiology obtains patient data during surgery by speaking commands to a patient records system. Wake Forest University students use smartphones and a Wi-Fi network as they walk across campus, receiving voice-activated data such as when the nearest shuttle bus will stop.
Faster chip speeds, better algorithms and the XHTML+Voice programming language are moving voice technology forward. Vendors are working on "multimodal" solutions that accept spoken words, clicks or typed words.
Research firm Datamonitor says businesses worldwide spent just over $1 billion on speech-recognition systems last year, and by 2009, that outlay should reach $2.4 billion.
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Vivek Ranadive's The Power To Predict (McGraw-Hill, 2006) looks at how companies are making better use of data in business decisions. "Predictive business is like Wayne Gretzky racing to where the puck is going to be best placed for his next slap shot, while lesser hockey players aim for where the puck is now, finding themselves out of scoring position by the time they get control," Ranadive writes. He discusses the mathematics behind predictive modeling and how particular industries, such as banking and health care, are using data analysis and other technologies to improve marketing and customer service. Helpful case studies are provided on FedEx, Harrah's, E.J. Gallo and others.