Conversational interfaces, voice recognition technology which allows users to talk directly to their devices rather than type, are finally beginning to move out of the realm of science fiction stories and into real life, fully functional applications. And this conversational revolution is being won in China.
Typing in any language can be time-consuming and frustrating but in China, where language is complex with literally thousands of Chinese characters, typing (particularly on handheld devices) is additionally challenging. So it’s no surprise that China, the world’s largest internet market, is leading the way in creating effective speech interfaces.
Currently the key players in voice recognition and language processing are Google, Apple, Nuance, Facebook and the Chinese company, Baidu. With Google blocked in China, Baidu, founded in 2000, is the country’s major search engine, dominating 70% of the market and featuring many services including banking, insurance and movie and music streaming.
This past November, Baidu hit an important benchmark in its voice technology with Deep Speech 2, a powerful new speech recognition engine with a “deep,” neural network that learns to associate sounds with words and phrases as it is fed millions of examples of transcribed speech. Deep Speech 2 is so advanced that researchers have found that at times it can actually transcribe Mandarin Chinese with more accuracy than a person.
Do you find yourself using voice recognition like Suri or Google Now with more frequency or are you still tied to typing on your smartphone? Leave us your comments below.