I-Feature: Nuanced speech and building a cross-industry app

Two new items have been posted on the Interactive Feature page, which this month focuses on the future of wireless. The first is a podcast with Nuance Communication’s chief scientist Vlad Sejnoha about the possibility of speech being used not just as a primary means of interfacing with the device but as a much more intuitive interface. The second is a news story from Mobile World Congress on Alcatel-Lucent’s new NG Connect program.

Though neither item would appear obviously related to the network of the future–at least not as obviously as our first piece detailing Ericsson CTO HĂ„kan Eriksson’s reimagined wireless topology–I think both offer an interesting perspective on how we will develop and interact with applications in the future. NG Connect is an intiative of the present, but it’s one that clearly focuses on the problems of developing the next generation of applications. Today we face a crisis of integration: We have all of the building blocks in place necessary to wirelessly connect cars, to remotely link doctors to hospitals or create self-updating digital advertising networks, yet those sorts of applications don’t readily exist today. As Alcatel-Lucent vice president of emerging technology Derek Kuhn explains it, the wireless industry has always worked separately from the industries it intends to connect. The building blocks may have been in place, but only in a few case have the industries that own the individual pieces put them together in a substantive way. NG Connect is an initial attempt to rectify that problem by pairing telecom vendors up with their counterparts in other industries.

Speech recognition is one technology that has been integrated with wireless for some time, but according to Vlad Sejnoha we’re just seeing the beginning. As speech interface algorthms and the artificial intelligence behind them grow more powerful, so grows the need to develop alternative ways to interface with the device. Nuance isn’t just developing better speech recognition, though, it’s tackling the problem of context and intuition. Sejnoha believes that we won’t just be verbalizing commands that would normally be typed or clicked on a screen; rather we’ll merely be conversing with our phones.

For those of you still unfamiliar with the interactive feature, you can read a detailed description in my introductory blog post, but, in short, we’re trying to do something different with our monthly cover stories by showing our readers the process in which we create them and giving them the chance to comment, make suggestions and even influence the direction of the final piece. The inaugural interactive feature is on the future of wireless technologies, a detailed look at what wireless services and networks will look like in the year 2025 as well as the technology challenges the industry must overcome in order to achieve that future. The feature is coming along slowly, but we’re starting to pick up momentum now that the madness of the world congress is over.

This week, we’ll be adding much more to site. I’ve done about a dozen interviews in the last week, so you’ll be seeing some fresh content soon. A couple of highlights: 

  •   Henry Tirri, the head of Nokia’s research labs, discussed topics ranging from congnitive radio to the growing development of sensors in devices. If you’re expecting Tirri to lay out all of the new sensors nanotechnology will produce, you may be surprised. According to Tirri, the key sensors that will power future applications are already embedded in the device: GPS, accelerometers, digital compasses and cameas. The phone can already feel, see and sense many aspects of the world around it. The next 10 years will be spent tying that raw data to applications that can use it.
  •   I also interviewed Russ McGuire, Sprint’s director of corporate strategy, and the author of The Power of Mobility, who shared his views on how operators’ networks will evolve to provide a new class of services to their customers.

There’s plenty more to come so be sure to check up on the feature occassionally and remember to share your comments.

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