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April 27, 2005

Speech Recognition in the mountains of Colorado

Mike Castillo, an engineer at Gold Systems wrote the following email, and with his permission I'm publishing it below.  It is entertaining, it illustrates that people on the street are starting to see the potential in speech recognition, and it shows what can happen when everyone in a company understands that they are in sales.

The only thing I've edited out is the name of the county where this happened and the name of the airline mentioned.  We did not build the application mentioned, but I do fly that airline regularly and I don't want them canceling my frequent flier account.  I'm also publishing this because I'm toying with the idea of a Gold Systems blog that is totally focused on our industry so I want to encourage Mike and others to step up and contribute so I don't have to do all of the writing myself.

Mike's Email:

I just participated in my all too frequent Jury duty (for some off reason, I get called very frequently; something about <this> county is weird). So what does this have to do with Gold? Well, I made several potential sales contacts without really trying, and it was kind of entertaining for me. Here's how it got started. D.A. is questioning jurors to try and decide final pool. D.A. gets to me and says, "you're the computer guy" (we had to fill out a questionnaire, and I had listed my masters degree in computer science.). He asks for more details about what I do. "Well, I write Speech Recognition applications" was my short summary answer. "Is that speech recognition stuff ready for prime time yet?" "I think so. Speech recognition vendors are touting 95% accuracy rates". "But isn't it expensive?" "Well actually Microsoft jumped into the market and lowered the prices. Other vendors seem to also be willing to give more in price in order to preserve their market share." "Hmm... we (<The> County) may need to look into this". "Please give me a call and let's talk. I think we might be able to help you." .... (moves on to next juror). At lunch I give him my contact information. Nothing will probably come from it (especially since we - the jury - voted Not Guilty, so the D.A. wasn't real happy at the end of the trial), but you never know.
But, that's not all. At lunch, I went over the county recorders office to take care of some personal business and a woman comes up to me and says, "Are you the speech rec guy". So she is building homes for disabled people and wants to voice automate them. Turns out she was in the original "large pool" of potential jurors and got "voted out". I explain that Gold System doesn't really do that type of application, but she pushes and really wants help and really decides she wants my number anyways, and I said I might be able to do something on the side (since I have played around with some of the PC based speaker recognition, and actually have played around with home automation stuff.).
Then, during our jury breaks, all the other jurors were all over me with every possible question (e.g. "my I-Mac says it has speaker recognition, should I try and use it?" "I called the <Big> Airlines application once and I cussed it out because it was so bad, and that thing hung up on me. Did your company write that application?") about speech recognition. I've never had so much attention in my life. So I educated 12 other people for a good 15 minutes in speech recognition and basically its ROI 'story'. Who knows, I may have hit another potential customer in all my lectures.
Yes, I do love brownies, but, no, this isn't a brownie point kind of letter. Just think of it as my very first blog posting. Hopefully it's a little interesting.

April 27, 2005 in Speech Recognition | Permalink