Speech recognition coming, but do we want it?

Within two years up to 30 per cent of all call centres in Australia will use natural language speech recognition (NLSR), predicts an industry source.

Paul Magee, managing director for VeCommerce said the use of the technology in Australia at the moment was "negligible", but fast growth is expected.

Geoff Johnson, research director with Gartner's Asia-Pacific research centre, agrees that up to a third of all call centres in Australia may use some sort of NLSR within the next two years, but views the technology as being "potentially high impact, but with a low probability".

"The biggest problem is the lack of interest by the user audience, and the usage is only low."

Magee said the industry was still in its early days and that the technology is "still relatively expensive".

"It has also a relatively long implementation cycle as the software needs to be customised and tested to work as the customer expects.

"NLSR technology has reached the stage that it can recognise voice words regularly and reliably. Now the issue is building interfaces that people are comfortable with, which understands how people converse," Magee said.

VeCommerce's NLSR applications are developed using a custom-built Australian and New Zealand language model that understands different accents, tone and speeds.

The company has implemented NLSR systems at the Australian Tax Office, David Jones, Regent Taxis, Telstra Payphones, Caltex, Mobile Oil and various TAB offices around the country.

Its new product, VeQuote, aimed at the insurance and financial services industry, is being trialled now by a financial service company.

Magee said the service is expected to be released to the public within three months.

"Our voice user interface sits between the phone and host company system and integrates with the company's quote software."

Magee said it usually takes between three to six months to implement, test and trial a NLSR system, with return on investment achieved in the first three to six months.

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