Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


It’s like software understands, um, language

EU researchers have taken speech recognition to a whole new level by creating software that can understand spontaneous language. It will, like, make human-machine interaction, um, work a lot more, er, smoothly.

Automated speech recognition has revolutionised customer relations for banks, allowing them to respond quickly and with less staff to more low-level queries. It has helped to enable online banking and the development of more advanced private and public services because machines can handle routine matters, leaving people to take care of more serious issues.

But this technology has its limits. The most common, very basic, voice system asks a series of questions or offers a series of options, slowly and fitfully narrowing down your problem or supplying the solution. It would be nice to just tell the service what you want.

Soon, you can, thanks to the work of the Luna project, a European-wide effort to dramatically advance the power and intelligence of speech recognition. The team is moving the system from utterances – like ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘account’ – to spontaneous speech, such as ‘I want to get the balance on my current account.’

Um, ah, and er…

This high level of speech recognition is called spoken language understanding (SLU), where software understands the meaning of what you are saying and can filter out the irrelevant verbiage, like ‘um’, and ‘ah’ and ‘er’.

Luna’s work in several languages is even more impressive. It has developed the most advanced SLU for both Polish and Italian, languages that had no similar systems before.

It is a big job. “We had to spend a lot of time initially recording spontaneous conversations between people and between people and machines,” explains Silvia Mosso, coordinator of the EU-funded Luna.

This is called the corpora, the collection of words and phrases that gives the software its basic language. Then, researchers have to annotate the terms in a way that machines can understand, and finally they apply statistical language models.

I have a problem …

“You can say things like ‘I have a problem with my printer’ and it will help you go through the options,” says Mosso.

The result is a system that can interact with people in a much more natural and fluid way. It will mean faster and more productive interactions with service centres, whether its getting travel information from public transport, dealing with an IT problem or tourist information – three of the areas where Luna applied its research.

“The advantage with these areas is that you can apply our work to any kind of help centre. But if you want to apply it to different areas, then you need to do the initial collection of the conversations, the corpora, again,” Mosso reveals.

Fundamental mechanics

Their scientific work is perhaps even more important. It looked at the fundamental mechanics of language and the development of SLU, work that will have potential applications in robotics and other areas.

Luna presented its work at ICT 2008, Europe’s largest conference and exhibition for European Information and Communication Technology research, and its demonstration was well received. “We had an avatar presenting the project and talking to people about it, and it was very popular.”

The work of the project is guaranteed practical use, with industrial partners like France Telecom, Loquendo and CSI Piemonte planning to incorporate the results into the services run within public administrations.

And the project has still several months left before it ends. “We have released the baseline systems in three languages and we will be refining them over the last months of the project.”

And then people can look forward to telephone systems with a little more understanding.

The Luna project received funding from the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research.

This is the first of a two-part feature on Luna published by ICT Results.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

The gene of autumn colours

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Polymer scaffolds build a better pill to swallow

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>