Bill Gates has always been a big advocate of Speech Recognition and Speech Synthesis inside and outside Microsoft. I’ve also had the great honor and opportunity to talk with Bill many times about Speech Recognition.
Ina Fried, from CNET News, just posted an interview with Bill’s opinions on where we’re going with Voice in general, not just Speech Recognition and Synthesis.
In that interview, Ina asked Bill several interesting questions, I’d thought I’d share them here along with Bill’s answers:
You talked about different natural language interfaces. You know, with multitouch, it seems to have really captured people’s imaginations, both with what you guys have shown with Surface, certainly with the iPhone. Voice seems to be a little slower in terms of speech recognition as a mainstream computer interface.
Gates: Well, that’s fair. Voice recognition is a harder thing. There are certainly tons of people, and I mean millions, who for some reason, the keyboard’s not attractive to them. Either they have repetitive stress injury, or they’re in a work environment where they’re doing something else with their hands, where they’ve taken the time to learn the software and adapt to the software and gone through the training process there. And they love it. They can’t believe other people don’t use it.
When you sell a product to hundreds of millions of users, there are features that millions of users love that you can call an obscure feature because, percentage wise, it’s not very many.
For the rest of us, the keyboard has worked so well that we are even getting the keyboard into phones. I think voice search on the phone is one of those applications that would really drive it forward. I mean, why should I have to try and type something in? I’ve got a phone, I’ve got a talk button; so that’s one of the areas we’re betting on.
You guys built a pretty significant voice recognition engine into Vista. It hardly gets talked about. Are you surprised that some of the things you did in Vista aren’t getting more attention?
Gates: Well, when you sell a product to hundreds of millions of users, there are features that millions of users love that you can call an obscure feature because, percentage wise, it’s not very many. You know, Butler Lampson, one of our great researchers who has done great work going all the way back to his days at Xerox, was just sending me mail about how fantastic the improvements in the speech stuff are in Vista and, you know, we’re hard at work on the next version of Windows. We’re going to take this speech stuff even further.
Wow. It’s always fun to hear Bill talk about things Microsoft’s doing, and it’s even more fun (for me) to hear him talk about specific projects I’ve put so much effort into. In these answers, he’s mentioning two of those projects that the team (and I personally) have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into:
I think Ina’s right about people just not realizing how good Windows Speech Recognition is in Vista. Every time I tell someone I just meet what I do at Microsoft in the Speech group, they’re like, "Really? Speech Recognition is built right into the Operating System?" Yeah … It is.
If you haven’t tried it yet. You should…
And, if you don’t know about Live Search for Mobile, check it out.