With the recent releases of Xbox Kinect and Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is demonstrating how its TellMe voice technology is becoming a key component to its products and how voice overall is going to be a major battleground with rivals such as Google and Apple. I talked with Ilya Bukshteyn, senior director of marketing for Microsoft’s speech business, who explained how voice control is an integral part of the interfaces for both Kinect and Windows Phone 7 and how it will increasingly be a consistent experience across many of Microsoft’s products, including its Sync automotive service in Ford cars.
Bukshteyn said voice is an effective way to enhance user interfaces when used in conjunction with other gesture inputs like motion or touch. On Windows Phone 7 devices, users can conduct searches or open apps by voice. On Kinect, users can control the interface and media playback through a microphone that’s always on. In Sync-enabled cars, users can control media playback, make phone calls and conduct local searches.
Bukshteyn believes voice will be an important battleground for technology companies like Apple and Google. That would validate Om’s thinking behind his suggestion that Apple buy Nuance. As Om pointed out, Google has been pushing hard with its own voice technology, which began with its Goog-411 product and now works in Android devices for things like Voice Actions and Google Translate. Google last week also bought Phonetic Arts, another voice technology company. Apple has also gotten more serious with voice control actions on the iPhone and with the purchase this year of Siri, a personal assistant app that leverages voice technology.
With more processing moving to the cloud, and devices increasingly getting connected, Bukshteyn believes the pieces are falling into place to use voice across more and more devices because it’s easier to deliver a high-quality experience on connected devices with less processing capabilities. He said voice technology will evolve from simple recognition and corresponding actions to smarter conversations in which back-end services begin to anticipate what a user wants. Take a look at the video interview with Bukshteyn and demonstrations of Microsoft’s speech technology in action.
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