Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products and National Semiconductor Corporation have signed an agreement to support and accelerate advanced speech processing technology in the emerging information appliance market. This contract brings L&H's full complement of speech technologies together with National's expertise in silicon and system design and integration. The two companies will jointly develop uses and applications for L&H's automatic speech recognition (ASR), text-to-speech (TTS) as well as speech compression technologies. National and L&H plan to enable voice-activated computing on a variety of next-generation consumer electronics devices, such as personal Internet access devices like National's WebPAD, automobile PCs, handheld devices and other emerging information appliances.
Speech technology has the potential to break down technology barriers, such as need to use keyboards and other manual input devices. In this way, it can revolutionize industries such as the information appliance market, according to Gaston Bastiaens, president and CEO of L&H. He also believes that through elimination of manual input techniques for information appliances, speech technology not only helps reduce the size of a device but more importantly gives end-users the freedom, productivity and convenience of communicating naturally with that tool.
The information appliance market is expected to rapidly grow and expand over the next few years, and some people, like International Data Corp.'s Kevin Hause, predict worldwide shipments of these devices to reach nearly 65 million units by 2003. If these appliances become more readily available, users will be likely to select the smallest, most convenient devices at reach. Because it can eliminate the need for slower, larger and more cumbersome forms of input, such as keyboards and other manual approaches, speech-processing technology will probably become the preferred interface for such small-sized devices.
A speech interface can be used while driving, performing surgery, welding, working on a car or any other task where vision-free, hands-free information access would be safer or more convenient. Brian Halla, CEO and chairman of National Semiconductor claims that the voice constitutes the ideal human interface, and soon it will no longer be necessary for us to modify our natural behaviours in order to communicate with machines. L&H is helping modify these machines to understand us, instead of the other way around. This will be a bigger revolution than the personalization of electronic devices which we have seen in the past dozen years. Children born today might never use a keyboard in their lives, according to Brian Halla.
L&H offers a full complement of speech and language solutions, including application development expertise, text-to-speech technology, digital speech compression and a family of vocabulary recognizers, ranging from its small footprint, small vocabulary engines to its new large vocabulary engine. Its solutions and technologies are available on multiple platforms in multiple languages. Its core technologies are not only integrated into its own diverse product offerings, but also are embedded into a wide range of products that are developed by the world's best-known companies in the computer, multi-media, telecommunications, consumer electronics as well as automotive industries.
National announced its new Geode family of highly integrated processors in July of 1999, and plans to optimize future Geode solutions to support L&H's speech processing technology. The Geode family offers customers a tailored feature set for each of the company's target segments in the information appliance market, personal access devices like the WebPAD reference design that National introduced in November 1998, thin clients such as Windows-based terminals, and set-top boxes. National Semiconductor offers system-on-a-chip solutions for the information age. Combining real-world analogue and state-of the-art digital technology, National's chips lead many sectors of the personal computer, communications, and consumer markets.
L&H is a global leader in advanced speech and language solutions for the vertical markets, computers, automobiles, telecommunications, embedded products, consumer goods and the Internet. L&H is making the speech user interface (SUI) the keystone of simple and convenient interaction between humans and technology, and is using advanced translation technology to break down language barriers. L&H provides a great variety of offerings, such as customized solutions for corporations; core speech technologies marketed to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs); end user and retail applications for continuous speech products in horizontal and vertical markets; and document creation, human and machine translation services, Internet translation offerings, and linguistic tools.
L&H's products and services originate in four basic areas: automatic speech recognition (ASR), text-to-speech (TTS), digital speech & music compression (SMC) and text-to-text (translation). For more information on the activities of L&H, we kindly refer to the VMW article L&H to acquire Fonix' Articulate Systems Division and launch medical market's first continuous speech dictation and reporting solution in the June 1999 issue.