Dr. Tony Robinson – world-renowned academic and entrepreneur - joins to build new centre of expertise
LONDON & ATLANTA---SpinVox, the founder and global leader in Voice-to-Screen messaging, has announced that Dr. Tony Robinson has joined the company as director of its Advanced Speech Group (ASG).
Robinson previously provided SpinVox with expert advice on its speech technology strategy along with Phil Woodland, a Professor of Information Engineering at Cambridge University’s Machine Intelligence Laboratory and coordinator of the Speech Research Group. Woodland retains his role as a consultant to SpinVox.
SpinVox will relocate some of its existing team of Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) experts from its world headquarters in Marlow, Bucks to its new ASG centre in Cambridge.
Robinson’s remit will be to further build a world-class team from the ASR expertise that is concentrated in the Cambridge area. Under his leadership, the SpinVox ASG will further develop the Voice Message Conversion System that is at the heart of SpinVox services.
Robinson is an established, internationally-known academic, originally working at the University of Cambridge, who has successfully made the transition to entrepreneurship. He was formerly founder and owner of Cantab Research Ltd, and CTO of Zentian Ltd, both of which are involved in high accuracy real-time speech recognition in challenging environments.
“Tony is one of only a handful of people who have a complete academic and commercial understanding of all aspects of speech recognition," says Christina Domecq, SpinVox co-founder and CEO. “We’re delighted that Tony is joining us to help take us to the next stage of our growth worldwide.”
Cambridge and the HTK
Cambridge’s global pre-eminence in speech recognition - which has resulted in a cluster of hundreds of voice specialists based at the University and in the specialist companies housed in the science parks and campuses that surround the institution - is based, in part, on the development at the University of the Hidden Markov Model Toolkit (HTK), the worldwide standard software for building speech recognition systems.
HTK, which was acquired by Microsoft in November 1999 as part of its acquisition of Entropic Inc., is now available free of charge to developers. Cambridge University is responsible for maintaining and developing the HTK.
"HTK Model technology is one of the foundations of SpinVox VMCS,” adds Daniel Doulton, SpinVox co-founder and chief strategy officer. “Indeed it is at the heart of modern speech recognition systems. At a time when everyone, from industry giants such as Cisco, IBM and Microsoft to specialists such as Nuance, are focussing on voice, Cambridge is recognised as the centre of the speech recognition universe and that’s why SpinVox is setting up there.”
“SpinVox is the Google of speech – it has successfully cornered the market for voice conversion services and the accumulated resources it has assembled represents a huge opportunity for ambitious speech developers and researchers to build their careers,” emphasises Robinson. “The company’s VMCS voice message conversion system is the most advanced of its kind and I believe we have seen only the beginning of its huge potential.”
VMCS works by combining state-of-the-art speech technologies with human intelligence and learning. A fully automated system, it `knows what it doesn't know` and is able to call for assistance when required. VMCS is continually evolving and currently converts messages in English, French, Spanish and German.
Cambridge Connectionist Speech Group
After completing his PhD, and following his subsequent appointment as SERC Advanced Research Fellow, Robinson built the Cambridge Connectionist Speech Group in Cambridge University. In the 1990s the group participated in projects including the TREC Spoken Document retrieval tracks and the DARPA speech recognition evaluations before, in 1995, Robinson was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Engineering and simultaneously founded SoftSound.
In its first five years, SoftSound achieved the first deployment of automatic subtitle generation - on BBC’s `Eastenders`. From 1997 to 2000 SoftSound was a key partner in the EU-funded THISL project which created the first audio indexing and retrieval system based on large vocabulary speech recognition.
In May 2000, Autonomy invested in SoftSound which provided access to worldwide markets and resulted in rapid expansion. Central to SoftSound's success is a patented algorithm for speech recognition which allows faster operation with less memory usage.
The author of over 100 academic papers and holder of three patents, Robinson has competed in marathons in London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Inverness, Snowdonia and in the Cambridge area. He is also a keen fell runner, having conquered Snowdon and other Welsh and Scottish peaks, and raced across the North Yorks Moors.
To find out more about SpinVox go to www.spinvox.com
SpinVox® brought together the two most popular methods of communication – voice and text – and created a new category of messaging called Voice-to-Screen™. Its award-winning service is now making everyday communication simpler and more powerful, creating new recurring revenues for wireless, landline, cable and VOIP carriers as well as service providers and web partners. SpinVox has already launched its service with Alltel, Cincinnati Bell, Rogers Wireless, Sasktel, Telstra, Telus, Vodafone Spain, Vodacom South Africa and Six Apart and announced a deal with Skype. As a managed service provider any network or service can rapidly and cost-effectively implement SpinVox.
At the heart of SpinVox is its Voice Message Conversion System™ (VMCS), which works by combining state-of-the-art speech technologies with a live-learning language process. VMCS is being rolled-out across four continents in four languages - English, French, Spanish and German.