07 May 2012

The LTi News Roundup - 5th May 2012 (part 2)

Weekly news round-up prepared by the Editorial Staff of LangTechNews for LT-Innovate, the Forum for Europe’s Language Technology Industry.

Assistive Language and Speech Tech: TVonics, CNGL and The Captioning Company all make life easier for the disabled

Your favourite language technology news site also featured products that address the needs of the physically and intellectually disabled - a compelling challenge to language technology from the very beginning of research in the field. Back in 1979, Henryk Rubinstein in Sweden managed to transmit a digitized text-to-speech version of a newspaper and broadcast it daily on FM to visually impaired readers. Today’s technology is smaller faster and smarter, but the needs are still there. UK set-top box maker TVonics has teamed up with the UK RNIB association to fit text-to-speech into a HD recorder so that blind and partially-sighted people can hear an automatic readout of electronic programing information, menus and settings, a small step that brings vital access to spoken TV metadata. In another move, the dynamic Irish CNGL team is developing a sign-to-speech system to help deaf people communicate in their own sign language to non-signers. The sign content is video- captured, translated into another sign language (e.g. Irish to English) and then ‘transvoiced’ into speech. Another example is the Australian company The Captioning Studio that has developed ‘3D Speech’. This application allows the deaf or hard of hearing to use signing, captioning or both together in real-time work, event and educational settings.

The Sentiment-alised Election

The presidential election in France has naturally been a useful test bed for e-reputation and sentiment engines to do their stuff, even though the strict polarity of the second round has made it easier to evaluate negative/positive opinion but harder to do any deeper analysis. One of the leaders in this field is the French company Lingway that draws on almost 30 years of expertise in language technology. It pioneered the interface and search engine for the French yellow pages on Minitel (a pre-internet online experience). Ironically candidate websites for the names Hollande and Sarkozy would not have benefited from last week’s new ruling from the French Domain Name Association that domain names can now tâkè aççented characters – including those used in German and some Nordic languages.

Chatting Up

Along with speech analytics, web chat is set to grow strongly by 60% during the year in contact centres, although it currently only accounts for 2% of inbound customer interactions. One advantage of a chat session is that it is easily logged and saved and can be analysed using existing text tools, whereas speech analytics applications need to engage with far more voluminous call recordings. In China, IM (a variant of written chat) is the second most popular internet activity after search, and one product (Tencent QQ) is apparently used 72.9% of all internet users. It would be interesting to know how much online chat is input via speech recognition rather than keyboarding. Chat can also add a video dimension, at least in the US where 37% of teenagers (girls more than boys) regularly use video-chat services to keep in touch. The long-ago concept of videophones never really translated into products, and most of us now know why: looking at a face on a screen adds little value to the content and most of all prevents multitasking while conversing. We now know it might have caught on if it had been properly marketed to young women needing to share visual information with each other.

More information about The LTi News Roundup of 5th May 2012 (.pdf)

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