SpeechTEK: Day 1

Yellow cabs. A taxi driver who talks on his cell phone via a Bluetooth headset the whole way, in a foreign language. Without getting into an accident during morning rush hour traffic. And delivers me to the correct destination.

Welcome to New York City. It’s always quite an experience riding the taxi in this city.

Unfortunately, thanks to the rush hour traffic I didn’t make it to the 9am keynote speech by Emily Yellin. However, I did get to liveblog two morning sessions.

Mashups: Integrate Multiple Web Services Into Your App

This was presented by Jay Wilpon from AT&T, and a pioneer in speech recognition technology, followed by Dan Burnett of Voxeo.

An interesting pairing of speakers, too. The old and traditional telecom giant, AT&T, with the new and Web-centric solutions offered by Voxeo.

Wilpon offered a lot of historical insight into speech technology and the overall industry. The speech industry has undergone major consolidation in the past decade. Now only a handful of players are left: Nuance, Microsoft Tellme, Loquendo, etc. Is this good or bad?

Consider this: Many, many years ago, IVR systems worked pretty much the same way it does today. Similarly with speech technology. Answer, greet, ask for id, data dip, present menus, request transfer, and hangup. Improvements have been accomplished in terms of speed, accuracy, and design, but what are some true innovations in this space?

Thanks to the Web and the massive amounts of data available to slice and dice, companies and developers now do cool things with mashup applications. The innovation appears to be in development, whether it’s the rich APIs, the user-friendly tools, or the instantaneous cloud deployments, to create these mashups.

It’s very encouraging to see wider adoption of voice app mashups. After all, one way for this ecosystem to flourish is to attract more developers, and we all know that there are more Web developers than IVR developers!

Extending Current IVR Systems to Support Video

The FaceTime feature on the Apple iPhone 4 has put mobile video calling on the front page news again (even in the Rated R section). According to presenters Dr. Val Matulaof Avaya and Rob Marchand of Genesys, EMEA and APAC regions have seen greater adoption of video IVRs than North America, the primary reason being the prevalence of 3G (or faster) availability. (I’m not surprised now I’ve gotten a taste of AT&T’s crappy coverage here in NYC.)

One of the biggest challenges would be to make all these video clients interoperable. Instead of Skype-to-Skype video calls, there needs to be Skype-to-iChat video calls too, for instance. Hmmm, I wonder how likely this is going to happen?

This is a topic that’s been covered here before. There are certainly benefits to video in the contact center, but I can also imagine the abuse. Not to mention the storage and recording infrastructure required for video interactions. Then what about video analytics, something tech giant Google is still working on.

Shout-outs At SpeechTEK (Is shouting considered speech?)

A day one shout-out to Daniel (passed by him coming out of the elevator), Ian (hasn’t shaved since I last saw him at G-Force Orlando two years ago), Jason (lives at the intersection of CRM and IVR), and a pleasant surprise, Tim (still fighting the good open source fight). And thanks to Genesys for the afternoon briefing.

Also, in non-SpeechTEK related news… Shout-out to an old friend, Alex, who I haven’t seen since 1996, for a great time over a bowl of ramen noodles and being an impromptu city guide.


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