May 16, 2007

Speech Recognition Comeback Via Cell Phones?

Speech recognition has been around for a long time, but hasn't enjoyed much traction. Products like Dragon Naturally Speaking were useful if one was prepared to spend the requisite time training and correcting it. Another problem was transferring around the large speech files between computers as it was speaker-dependent.

New services are popping out of the Web 2.0 world, making it much easier for people to use their phones to communicate with others in a variety of ways. You could probably call some of these services "Phone 2.0".

For instance, Jott provides a service whereby you can leave a short voice message and have it sent to others (or yourself) as text messages or e-mails. Or, it can send along the voice message. Jott uses a combination of speech recognition technology and human transcribers to convert your voice messages into text.

Of course, this may raise privacy and confidentiality concerns for some. For Jott to work, you need to add the recipients' contact information into Jott's site so it can send your messages to them. Jott is perfect for those times when you need to tell several people, "I'm running late," or "The meeting was changed to ten." Since you can set up groups, it beats having to call each person individually or have one tell all the rest.

While Jott says they "hide personal info from the people doing transcription", there's at least a temporary record being made, so it's best to be prudent with messages going through an intermediary. Also, the one-year-old Jott doesn't seem to have much of a business model yet, so what's going to happen to all of that personal and contact information we enter? Jott does have a posted privacy policy, but doubts may linger.

For more, see "Jott Networks Bridges Voice, Text Worlds" at

As the article mentions, Microsoft recently completed the acquisition of one of my favorite phone services, Tellme Networks. Simply call 1-800-555-TELL (8355), and speak keywords like "weather", "traffic", or even "blackjack" to play a game with a very convincing and humorous Sean Connery impersonation. Additional voice prompts are given and it recognizes your vocal responses. Granted, sometimes I've had to repeat myself, particularly in noisy locations, but it works and it's free.

Cell phones are also becoming a focal point for other technologies. Location-based services such as GPS-like navigation and social networking "friend locators" are catching on. So expect to see even further convergence of messaging and location-based services from cellular and third-party providers. In other words, watch for even more services to connect the Jotts.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink