Nuance's New Dragon NaturallySpeaking V.11: More Accurate, Faster, Easier

Nuance comes in with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, a new release of its speech recognition software, one that has been around for 13 years, that has been redesigned to let people spend more of their energy working and creating, rather than clicking and typing.  Dragon 11 says Nuance, “gives people a voice to perform almost any task on the computer to create documents, send e-mails, surf the Web, search Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter and interact with their favorite applications – at speeds up to three times faster than typing.”


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SpinVox carcass laid bare in final accounts

Dragon's Den TV star Julie Meyer described SpinVox as "the first major technology success story out of Europe", but the company's final accounts show a business running at a huge loss, spending heavily, and with interest payments alone exceeding income.

The accounts also show that CEO Christine Domecq repaid the company a six figure sum.

Speech giant Nuance acquired the controversial British company - which dominated the business pages last summer - shortly before Christmas in a stock deal.

Although its executives bravely talked of an IPO, SpinVox's liabilities far exceeded its assets. The company listed current liabilities of £124m, including trade and other payables of £59.6m and borrowings of £64.3m.

Yet SpinVox booked just £7.8m in revenue for the nine months year ending 30 September 2009, reporting a staggering loss of £56.49m. In the nine months ending 30 September 2008, accounts reveal, the company posted a £45.25m loss on income of just £2.97m.

The cost of doing business was high, with SpinVox buying customers. In June, the company announced a deal with Telefonica to provide text-to-speech voicemail in 13 Latin American countries.

The accounts refer to an "intangible asset of £22.2m, in respect of the right to provide its service to a customer". This was to be amortized over the term of the deal. But the accounts added that "since the contract is at an early stage of deployment, management consider it reasonably possible that the net revenue under the contract may be zero".

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Nuance Study Finds Automated, Live Agent Preferences

Nuance Communications has announced the findings of a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Nuance titled, “Driving Consumer Engagement with Automated Telephone Customer Service.”  

It found that consumers rate automated telephone customer service higher than live agents for certain straightforward interactions. 'In five out of ten posed scenarios, consumers preferred automated telephone customer service systems over live agent interactions for tasks like prescription refills, checking the status of a flight from a cell phone, checking account balances, store information requests and tracking shipments.

Consumers’ satisfaction with customer service leaves a lot of room for improvement, too, the study found: 'Only 49 percent of U.S. online adults report being satisfied, very satisfied or extremely satisfied with companies’ customer service in general.' 

And we're just used to it by now: Automated telephone systems are 'an expected and accepted customer service channel,' the survey found, with 82 percent of US online adults having used an automated Touchtone or speech recognition system to contact customer service in the past 12 months.  

Spinvox bought by Nuance for £64m

UK firm Spinvox, which converts voicemails into texts, has been bought by speech recognition company Nuance for $102.5m (£64m).

The deal is worth $66m in cash and $36.5m in stock, about a third of the previously rumoured $146m price tag.

Spinvox investor Invesco Perpetual had confirmed in September that Spinvox was up for sale.

In recent months doubts had been cast on how effective Spinvox's speech-to-text software actually was.

The company claims to use advanced voice recognition software for its service, but the BBC found that human operators were also involved in transcribing many messages.

Nuance and IBM to Offer Speech Technologies for Ten Industries


Nuance & IBM have announced an agreement they say will help further accelerate innovation in speech recognition solutions for enterprises, consumers and partners worldwide.

As part of this agreement, Nuance has been chosen as IBM’s Preferred Business Partner for speech technologies and related professional services and will complement IBM’s Industry Solutions portfolio.

The two companies will focus on deploying speech technologies for ten industries: automotive, banking, electronics, energy and utilities, healthcare and life sciences, insurance, media and entertainment, retail, telecommunications, and travel and transportation.


Speech recognition-developer Nuance acquires Jott voice-to-text platform

Nuance, a developer of mobile speech recognitionsoftware, has acquired Jott, a company focused on voice-to-text conversion. Jott's Assistant platform lets users write notes, memos, messages, and more using hands-free voice input.

Nuance will integrate Jott's voice-to-text platform in its voice services portfolio. Nuance has also said that it will offer salable Enterprise packages that include Jott and that it will also open Jott's API to third-party partners.


TellMe cuts the cord to Nuance

TellMe just had their best quarter so far. It's taken them over two years to upgrade their platform to lose reliance on Nuance technology.

When TellMe was founded in 1999, they used speech recognition technology produced by the original Nuance. Over time, they upgraded their platform and continued to use Nuance technology even after ScanSoft bought out Nuance and changed it's name to Nuance. 

Now, TellMe has announced vast improvements to their platform, "the most substantial ... since Microsoft bought it in May 2007." and "the improvements ... take advantage of cloud computing..."

The article states that "The improvements  include speech recognition technology developed by other units of Microsoft." 

Talking while driving still not safe?

A study by Harvard and the University of Warwick researched the safety of driving while talking and found that people engaged in conversation drove much more poorly than other conditions.

"The worst results came from the subjects tasked with listening to a list of words and then speaking new words that began with the same letters as each word on the list. Those "drivers" had a 480 millisecond delay, which at 60 miles per hour would mean 42.3 additional feet traveled before applying the brakes." 

This task is similar to using an in-vehicle system for command and control purposes.  The driver is speaking to the system and then waiting for it's response and possibly speaking again. A mitigating factor is that typically, speech offers the ability for shortcuts to activate functionality more quickly, reducing the time that drivers are interacting with the system.

In-vehicle systems are not totally hands-free however; they usually are "push to talk" like a Nextel phone or walkie talkies. The driver is end pointing their speech, making the system's job easier.

In-vehicle speech recognition is worth watching, and it may be safer than alternatives, but it still hasn't been shown to actually be safe.

Nuance prepares to exit Israel

In late 2007, Nuance laid off most of it's Israeli staff, leaving behind 30 to 40 employees. Nuance's R&D lab in Israel was made of people it had acquired through ART and Phonetic Systems in 2004.

ART provided mobile speech recognition (an area in which Nuance has made other acquisitions) and handwriting recognition (which has seeminly allowed to go fallow). Phonetic Systems had developed their own technology to provide Directory Assistance information. The closure of these operations is in line with Paul Ricci's dedication to running a relatively lean organization and his concerns about how current economic conditions are effecting the markets in which Nuance participates. He has noted that Enterprise Speech Rec partner revenue has been much lower than anticipated. In addition, the growth in mobile has slowed.

Update: Nuance acquires parts of IBM's speech technology

Nuance recently announced that it will be purchasing some of IBM's speech technology. While the addition of IBM's source code will enable Nuance to make improvements to its embedded and network-based speech recognition technology, the acquisition and ensuing relationship has prompted questions over Nuance's technology and IBM's motives.

Nuance recently announced that it has acquired parts of IBM's speech recognition technology; namely, the source code from IBM's research and development team, which will enhance its speech capabilities in the areas of network-based and embedded text-to-speech (TTS), and advanced speech recognition (ASR). Nuance intends to combine the source code with its own over the next two years to improve the performance of its speech recognition engine.

Despite initial speculation that IBM will no longer compete in this market, the company will continue to develop its speech capabilities independently in these areas. It has sold Nuance a past release of its code for its embedded ViaVoice software and its WebSphere Voice Server middleware. The key motive for IBM in making this transaction is to gain some return on investment for its speech recognition technology, which is not unusual as it regularly sells patent licenses to other vendors.

The purchase of IBM's technology reinforces Nuance's aims to develop leading speech technology. However, it has also led to speculation that IBM's technology was in fact superior to Nuance's; if true, Nuance's decision to acquire this technology was a prudent one.