dinsdag 16 september 2008

Taking computer chat to a whole new level

ICT Results publication

Natural spoken dialogue technology has long been a dream for many. Advances by European researchers are making this a reality.

The results of their work could soon be used to allow us to verbally interact with technology in our everyday lives, from the music systems in our cars to functions in the homes of wheelchair users.

Interactions between human and computer are currently inefficient, particularly when we try talking. Previously, users have had to rely on specific commands making natural interactions in everyday language impossible.

Motivated by the idea of allowing people to say what they want to say, in the way they want to say it, the EU-funded TALK (Talk and Look, Tools for Ambient Linguistic Knowledge) project set about developing technology that would also allow for the systems to learn from the process.

“We developed methods for designing better, more natural, flexible, and adaptive spoken dialogue systems that learn from their interactions with users,” says Oliver Lemon from Edinburgh University and project coordinator. “We showed for the first time that machine learning techniques in Information State Update systems can lead to better human-computer interaction.”

And show it they did, at the IST 2006 conference in Helsinki, where project partners BMW, Bosch, and DFKI showcased some of the fruits of the project with SAMMIE, an in-car dialogue system for an MP3 player.

Sammie was installed in a BMW car. The system operates in German and English. This multilingual system is a first in human-computer interactions.

“This in-car system was extensively tested by BMW and Bosch, with real drivers, and was assessed to be less distracting and more comfortable than two competing systems,” says Lemon.

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