AT&T’s Watson Voice Technology Listens Closely, Hears Google’s Footsteps

From Google Voice to Microsoft Kinect, using human interaction to command consumer electronics has become all the rage these days. AT&T, in a bid to develope some of its own buzz , just held an event here in New York to rattle its voice recognition sabre. Perhaps to counteract today’s news that Google Voice has come to the iPhone, spokesmen from AT&T Labs touted the company’s Watson speech engine and services platform. To show how the technology can  tackle a number of tasks, exhibitors displayed many interesting if far-flung applications.

For instance within a living room setting, a voice to text function translated a TV feed between Spanish and English in real-time. Unfortunately other more complicated (and arguably more in demand) languages like Japanese, Chinese, or Korean were not demonstrated. Even so, an AT&T spokesman floated the idea that gesture-based interaction isn’t that far off since both it and translation and use similar statistical algorithms.

AT&T also had developers showing their wares which rely on Watson technology. Speak4it, a current iPhone app allows users to touch areas on a map and search for items of interest nearby via voice commands. Vlingo, another app-maker, offers more comprehensive control of your phone by letting users issue global voice commands. For example you can order your phone to send a text message to a contact and speak the contents of the text, all in the same breath.

Most interesting though is AT&T’s Safe (Strong Authentication For Everyone) security protocol. It uses four factors for authentication; voice, account info, validated mobile device, and location. The good news is these protocols are envisioned to operate behind the scenes to enable faster, more convenient account protection and login.

Of course many of these same abilities are built into Android phones, Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, and the now the iPhone via Google Voice. It remains to be seen how AT&T, even with the legacy of the legendary Bell Labs, can withstand the Google juggernaught.

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