Thursday, April 3, 2008

Speech based search is aiming high

The momentum in speech recognition is evident with the new relations between Yahoo and Vlingo.
Yahoo also is leading a $20 million round in Vlingo.

The promise is a speech based search from your cellular handset. We are all aware that voice commands on cellular phones are not taking off. This is similar to computers. There the fact that you can do things quietly and using a full size qwerty keyboard, prevented the proliferation of speech based activity. I do not know when was the last time you tried a speech based search solution. So let me remind you what is the setup process and some of the user experience:

In order to remember myself, I just installed the rather new Tazti engine on my laptop. As part of the setup I received some guidance which immediately put me in a defensive mode thinking about cellular search:

"Speak in a quieter environment"
"Make sure your microphone is positioned correctly"
"Speak more clearly and do not ruse"
"Obtain a higher quality microphone"

I guess some they forget the comments about my horrible accent (or they just didn't want to offend me..).

Of course that I aborted my attempts to use the speech recognition as I type much faster and when interacting with a large screen and many options, it is simpler just to type and click.

So Vlingo/Yahoo trust that unlike the speech vs. full size qwerty keyboard, people will use the speech on the cellular handsets as the three key typing is very cumbersome (at least to people older than 17) and also the mini qwerty keyboards are not extremely usable. Will people really use it ? Given today's state of the are systems, I do not a believe that it will be widely used. However this is why Vlingo just raised $20M - to make it real and cross this enormous technology challenge.

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