L&H's European Technology Days to highlight Natural Language Understanding in health care

Ieper 12 May 2000The future of speech and language technology and the role it will play in an increasing number of industries, applications and devices served as the backdrop for panel discussions, presentations, announcements, and product demonstrations at Lernout & Hauspie's (L&H) first annual European Technology Days. Industry luminaries, L&H executives and customers all discussed how speech and language solutions are increasingly being used to provide a natural user interface to devices to simplify tasks, and break down communications barriers for consumers and businesses worldwide. Discussions called special attention to the role of speech and language in call centres and telephony; automotive; handheld, wireless and mobile consumer devices; computing and the Internet, health care, and translation and globalisation markets.


L&H demonstrated dictation and transcription solutions for the medical and legal markets. Based on L&H's award-winning speech recognition technology, these solutions utilise language models specific to each vertical application and also provide an intuitive, continuous speech dictation solution. These solutions enable the user to easily create reports, notes and letters, dictating naturally at ravishing speeds of up to 140 words per minute. During the event, the L&H Voice Xpress for Radiology was demonstrated, which is currently available in German and Dutch and is expected to soon ship in UK English.

L&H also showcased the US English version of PowerScribe. The release for the European versions in multiple languages is scheduled for later this year. The L&H PowerScribe tool combines advanced continuous speech recognition technology with digital dictation capabilities to provide a flexible, simple solution, delivering benefits without sacrificing physician acceptance or transcription accuracy. The PowerScribe system captures, transcribes and manages digital clinical information across a network.

In the first quarter of the year 2000, L&H's Healthcare Solutions Group has signed contracts for its PowerScribe Radiology solution with a number of hospitals in the United States, such as Brockton Hospital based in Brockton Massachusetts; Lenox Hill Radiology and Medical Imaging, New York in New York; Children's Hospital in Seattle, Washington; and Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield, New Jersey. The group has equally signed Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut for the L&H Clinical Reporter in the Emergency Department.

L&H's acquisition of Dictaphone will build the company's product and management resources and its customer base in the medical dictation arena and the telecommunications market. The management teams for both firms have worked diligently to integrate both organisations' operations in order to more quickly penetrate within the health care, telephony, call centre, and legal dictation markets. Mr. John Duerden, formerly chairman and CEO of Dictaphone, will become president of a newly created Division.

The Division will include Dictaphone's call centre activities integrated with L&H's advanced data mining technologies; the combination of all Dictaphone's Interactive Voice Solutions with L&H's PC Applications group; and a newly formed Consumer Group comprised of L&H's embedded, PC and multi-media technologies, and wireless and mobile solutions (NAK); as well as the companies' combined health care solutions. In addition, the company has established a separate entity focused on transcription and Internet-hosted services for the health care market.

During the first quarter, L&H equally signed a definitive agreement to acquire Dragon Systems of Newton, Massachusetts. By combining resources, L&H and Dragon plan to create a "brain trust" which is expected to use the best of the technologies developed in both companies to work on projects designed to accelerate the use of speech and language in emerging and mainstream markets. The completion of the acquisition is subject to customary conditions to closing including obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals.

Furthermore, L&H has also acquired Interactive Systems Inc. (ISI), a Pittsburgh-based speech and language technology developer, for about $8.9 million in cash with a $4 million earn out over 2 years. The assets from this acquisition will provide L&H with additional expertise with which to further natural language understanding (NLU), a technology which figures prominently in data mining, data management, audio mining, clinical language understanding, and other processes needed for comprehensive health care and telecommunications solutions.

ISI, formed by leading researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Karlsruhe University, is widely recognised for its world-class research and development engineering staff that has been advised by Alex Waibel, a prominent speech and language scientist associated with CMU. L&H expects to leverage ISI's R&D staff and its technological expertise, including its strengths in robust parsing, dialogue management and conversational speech technology, for use not only in its health care and telecommunications solutions but also in translation and Internet services. Dr. Alex Waibel will probably join Raymond Kurzweil as a member of the L&H technology advisory board, whereas Dr. Janet Baker will chair the technology advisory board, pending the completion of the Dragon Systems acquisition.

In order to support the rapid deployment of Machine Translation over the Internet, as well as the broader requirements of the company in the field of Natural Language Understanding, the company has increased its holdings in SAIL Labs. SAIL Labs is a research and development lab specialising in artificial intelligence (AI), natural language understanding (NLU), machine translation (MT), Advanced Natural Language Search Technology and a host of other advanced technologies. L&H has held a minority interest in the SAIL Labs since 1999 while a consortium of other investors held a majority interest. L&H has augmented its holdings to some 30%. SAIL Labs, which has facilities in Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich and Vienna, employs about 190 engineers, scientists and linguists' expert in the field of speech, artificial intelligence and language technology.

Leslie Versweyveld

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