TAB Queensland will handle up to one-third of its bets through natural language speech recognition within 12 months, says managing director Dick McIlwain.
The TAB's current trial of the service follows nine months of development with software developers Scitec and Nuances.
Scitec's managing director, Paul Magee, said the natural language service was an add-on to the Australian company's existing IVR (interactive voice response) technology, which he said was currently used by TAB's Victorian, ACT, Tasmanian and New Zealand operations. The natural language "kernel" was supplied by US developer Nuances, he said.
Magee said the "kernel" had a 96 per cent accuracy level in comprehending spoken English. In collaboration with AC Nielsen, Scitec had conducted "thousands of hours" of telephone sampling, recording all forms of Australian and New Zealand accents to achieve this level of accuracy, he said.
Magee said the existing IVR system presented limitations for gamblers in that it could not comprehend complicated "derivative" betting -- quinellas, trifectas and the like. McIlwain agreed, adding that punters preferred to "call" a bet. "Customers don't like IVR or the Internet," he said.
McIlwain said that to date 40 TAB punters had trialled the technology, but he said 2200 more would trial the service before it was made fully operational at the end of the year. "We need a very high level of accuracy. We're not just talking about where to pick up a parcel from. These are money transactions. The technology needs to develop a little bit more before we're satisfied with the reliability and accuracy with which it handles business," he said.
Ultimately, McIlwain estimated a consumer uptake of 30 per cent. TAB Queensland's trial of the service follows trials already under way by the Australian Tax Office and American Airlines.
Scitec is also currently in discussions with the NSW TAB and the NSW Police Force.