Saturday, May 26, 2007

Voice Control for Getting Mobile Information

One motivation for Nuance’s acquisition of VoiceSignal announced this month was said to be better mobile voice control. This is very much what the marketplace is seeking.

For example this week it was noted that the Vancouver International Film Festival will have a Mobile VIFF Interactive Voice Guide. This will provide a voice-driven front-end to the VIFF’s on-line database of festival films and events. This will allow users to quickly retrieve a wide variety of information using a combination of pre-recorded prompts and descriptions. It can be used from any phone but clearly certain functions are very much applicable to mobile devices.

With the improvements in voice recognition technology, such applications will be increasingly common.

Friday, May 25, 2007

IVR must deliver better user experiences

Forrester has just rolled out a report authored by Moira Dorsey, entitled Best And Worst Of Phone Self-Service Design, 2007. Forrester applied its Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Review methodology. The report examined the phone self-service experiences at 16 firms — four of the largest credit card issuers, consumer electronics retailers, PC manufacturers, and wireless providers. None of the companies passed the Forrester evaluation but a number are now beginning to adopt best practices. JPMorgan Chase received the highest overall score. Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Dell and Cingular all received honorable mentions. The key message in the report is that effective IVR solutions will only be developed by looking at the user experience and ensuring the systems meet users’ needs.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Voice Recognition Closes In On... Customer Service Call Centers

There’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times entitled ‘Voice Recognition Closes In on HAL‘. It describes the intriguing work that is being done by companies such as IBM to allow you to control some of the systems in your automobile by your voice. It’s a tough environment for voice recognition systems and safety concerns are paramount. However within five years they’re predicting quite phenomenal results, although they may initially appear only on luxury cars.

Such developments help to explain why voice recognition systems are moving so fast into customer service call centers. There’s a huge demand for such systems given that the traditional ways of providing customer service to callers are costly and rarely give customers a satisfactory experience. The technical challenges are very much simpler than trying to make such systems work in an automobile. A customer speaks directly into a telephone and is usually calling from a low-noise background environment. If it takes a few seconds more to identify exactly what is required, then there are no safety concerns. All-in-all it’s highly likely that most of the call centers you call will be using voice recognition response systems long before you’ll have HAL or anyone else controlling your car.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Speech technology will be the big winner in mobile Web growth

Everyone acknowledges that the fastest-growing sector on the Internet is the mobile Web. What is not often remarked is that there will be many difficulties in creating seamless experiences in surfing the web because of the competing standards and the diverse devices that are being used. Smart phones may seem attractive but using those tiny keys is challenging. Nevertheless since the world is on the go, the demand is there.

Speech technology is a very attractive proposition to help deliver that mobile Web experience. Just think of surfing to a voice portal or vortal as some are dubbing them. By simple voice commands, you can completely control what appears on that tiny screen. You wish to order something so you just keep talking. Voice recognition technology is already well understood: it’s just a question of refining the applications.

Two recent major acquisitions confirm this thinking. Microsoft has now completed the acquisition of Tellme Networks. The move represents a huge opportunity for Microsoft, says Forrester analyst Elizabeth Herrell. According to Datamonitor, worldwide sales for speech technology are more than $5 billion. Herrell expects that will only continue to explode.

More recently Nuance is in the process of acquiring Voicesignal Technologies. This will create an organization with broad resources, solutions and expertise that will satisfy the accelerating demand for speech-enabled mobile devices and services. Nuance expects to serve more than one billion consumers within the next three years with voice-based mobile solutions that allow people to simply and effectively navigate, retrieve and transact across the vast and growing universe of content and services available in mobile phones, automobiles and personal navigation devices.

Perhaps as a footnote, it should be clear that what works well in the mobile world can much more easily be applied in the static world. Voice recognition and speech technology can easily be applied to voice portals that you might access on your desktop PC. The same technology will see increasing application in the more successful call centers.