SIRI and Speech Recognition


At the height of the Siri craze, and the Siri memes like Stuff Siri Says, it was pretty easy to believe that Apple single handedly reinvented the way we interface with devices.

Just like tablets, the niche market advertising strength was so good it could fool even the most sober of minds.

Take the tablet concept for example, its work design and concepts have been in full product release by other companies yet to the albeit sober minds who had no knowledge of the history of technology, Apple “invented” the tablet.

So it has been with Siri and Speech Recognition.

So much so, when Android developers pushed out IRIS, a sirilike mod application of SIRI ( note too, that IRIS is SIRI backwards) for the android app store over a weekend hackathon, comments on the blogs announcing that milestone were brutal.

Some suggested they be sued, others were like “ Apple ALWAYS does it first, everyone follows…”

In this field too however, there have always been subtle forerunners.

So the other day I was typing a speech on my laptop (it runs Windows 7). I was helping out a friend’s parent by writing her speech for her retirement dinner.

I always use Avafind to trace my references and resources. I think the wizards who created Avafind deserve better, it’s the quickest way to anything on ones computer.

This time however, I clicked the windows start button, and in the search box under my programs,typed the word “Speech”.

You would never guess what happened. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Up pops this little elliptical chrome interface with a microphone,a mic meter, a darkened text instruction screen with the silvery words “listening”.



So this little tyke is Microsoft’s speech recognition software for Windows, and she’s been here on my laptop all this time!

Its a pretty nifty bit of software. The commands on windows are not so puny as those one handles on Siri, so it requires a bit of machine learning for it to understand how you speak and say certain words, through some tutorials, where it gives you sentences to dictate to your computer.

You also need some learning too, the commands on how to switch from application to application, open different programs, exit, open a tab…

The best aspect is the dictation feature, which works pretty well.

The concept takes some getting used to, and unlearning typing to familiarize oneself to speaking to the computer is no mean feat, especially the aspects of thought process and flow of ideas. I may soon be posting blogs fully from dictation, but not just yet…

when you try it you quickly realize how complicated some of the tasks on a computer are.

The ability of the machine to first learn to listen to you, and then compute your commands into functions is pretty impressive.

I really admire the guys at call centers doing remote PC helpdesk. Ever tried to remotely help someone to carry out a Word or Excel task that they have never done before?

“ click on…go down the menu, click on this, right click …” Its pretty hard work.Especially when the person on the other end is not a power user.

Right now as is, Microsoft’s speech recog software is not plug and play, however, I am certain with the current interest in speech recognition software, Windows 8 will have some pretty impressive speech features. They actually hint at this on the Windows 8 Beta Portal.


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