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Does the end of this particular chapter of Boston tech history mean that there are no more opportunities for startups to create important new products that use spoken language in a more sophisticated way? Absolutely not, says venture capitalist Bob Davoli. Technology may eventually lead to the end of call center agents, Davoli suggests.
Among his investments are Interactions Corp. His current startup, LifePod Solutions, sells smart speakers that can initiate conversations rather than waiting to be asked something. Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner pobox. Follow him on Twitter ScottKirsner. The Burlington company was a pioneer in a field that still has plenty of room for innovation. Email to a Friend. View Comments.
Jim and Janet Baker, cofounders of the speech recognition pioneer Dragon Systems, whose technology later became part of Nuance Communications.
Janet Baker. Get Innovation Beat. Boston Globe tech reporters tell the story of the region's technology and innovation industry, highlighting key players, trends, and why they matter.
Enter Email Sign Up. Was that one of the reasons for spinning off the auto assistant portion of the business into Cerence? So Nuance has been a healthcare company for years. It just happens to have a legacy footprint in other verticals. A footprint with sporadic tooling and technology that many other providers can supply including Microsoft. This footprint of tooling and technology, such as voice tech for the contact centre and chatbots for websites, might regrettably end up becoming collateral damage in this deal.
Another quote from Satya in the interview, whilst discussing the potential of business transformation post-pandemic:. Having integrations with these systems shortcuts over a decade of complex work, considerable expense and relationship building, and enables Microsoft to take up the same default provider stance in speech tech for healthcare as it does for enterprise software provision.
One would naturally draw some conclusions around the future of Microsoft being to continue its focus on industry-specific conversational cloud capabilities, a trend observed by Paul Sweeney, EVP Product, Webio :. This way, over time, Microsoft will be able to offer a whole conversational cloud solution to any industry.
Most organisational transformation is dependent on having the technical infrastructure needed to support it. So many chatbots and voice AI implementations fall short because they are sticking plasters on top of a poor organisational technology stack. A stack that could no doubt be improved if it were moved to the cloud. This is why we see so many conversational AI deals coming with a cloud migration offering. Just look at the recent Ford announcement to run Google Assistant in its vehicles.
We saw the same with Renault-Nissan-Mitzubishi. In , it announced a partnership with Google to have Google provide Android Auto, the Play Store and Google Assistant in its vehicles as part of its mid-term strategy.
What will Microsoft do with that? The question is whether this will be a priority or whether the healthcare ambitions see all of this stuff get kicked into the long grass. Seamless authentication is a holy grail that applies both in contact centers and for access to corporate VPNs and Nuance brings some very formidable IP, tools and frameworks here.
This is a great observation. Microsoft manages the Active Directory register of employee details, email addresses etc that authenticates and powers email, Teams, Sharepoint and almost all internal single sign-on SSO applications like your HR system, intranet, CRM, Contact Centre and much more.
Microsoft, then, holds the single source of truth for identifying and authenticating staff in all or most of the businesses it operates within. Being able to assign a voice print to that AD record will bring voice authentication into a safe, secure and reliable place and, for the first time, will enable indiscriminate adoption of voice technologies across most businesses.
Other things it might keep hold of could be branded products like Dragon dictate. However, it does have the potential to be commoditised due to the advanced speech recognition technology available for free from the likes of Google, Apple and in some cases, Microsoft.
We could see it get rolled into the Windows OS or suite, as Microsoft has already started doing with captioning Power Point presentations. However, that does depend on whether it performs better than what Microsoft already has.
One of the biggest questions leftover is: what about the other voice AI products like interactive speech enabled IVRs, chatbots and independent voice assistant technology that Nuance has been providing to other industries like finance and retail? One can only imagine these will either be folded into the Azure suite where relevant in an effort to squeeze some additional performance from it, or scrapped. Regardless of what actually happens, this acquisition is a sign to the technology sector at large: voice is here.
So, is this a statement that Microsoft believes that voice computing is the future of work and the future of human computer interaction? Is Microsoft gearing up to become the out-and-out global leader in cognitive services? Is healthcare the first step, a short term focus to cut its teeth and refine its strategy for the rest of the market?
And does it have its eye on longer term enterprise-wide cloud migrations? First name. Last name. Work email. Job title. About Contact Subscribe. Home Article Why is Microsoft acquiring Nuance, really? The bigger picture. Why is Microsoft acquiring Nuance, really?
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Ron Croen formed the original Nuance in with three researchers from SRI International, a nonprofit research and development group headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. SRI formed an Artificial Intelligence Center in and contributed to the development of speech recognition and translation products.
At that time, Siri incorporated Dragon-based speech recognition licensed from Nuance. Neither Apple nor Nuance acknowledged the licensing and incorporation of the speech recognition until then-CEO Paul Ricci of Nuance finally did so during an address to an industry conference in , according to an account in appleinsider. For decades, Croen stated, companies including Microsoft and IBM have poured millions of dollars into trying to get software to better recognize human speech.
A current startup his firm is funding, LifePod Solutions, sells smart speakers that can initiate conversations rather than waiting to be asked something. That makes a lot of sense. The number of voice technology acquisitions Nuance has made over the years now gives Microsoft a stronger position.
Many of the most experienced people working in voice recognition today, learned about the technology, products and how to support customers while working at Dragon and then Nuance, she said. Very few companies really do that. Medical terminology, specialized vocabularies, and intuitive user interfaces were always significant targets for Dragon.
She is not bitter about not getting paid for the software technology. That was our audacious goal, and we spent our lives doing it. We feel privileged to have been a fundamental part of making that happen. She also called attention to the many professionals who have created, developed, and supported the Dragon-based technologies over time. We led the direction and that was critical, and we pioneered a number of technical innovations, but it would not have happened on this scale without the dedicated, top-notch group of people we had working on it.
They deserve a lot of credit. Read the source articles and information at TheVerge , in Wikipedia , in VentureBeat , in a Microsoft press release , in the Boston Globe and in appleinsider.
Nuance also sells well-known personal speech-recognition software Dragon NaturallySpeaking , which is invaluable to many people with a wide range of physical disabilities.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking, originally released in , was one of the first commercially available continuous dictation products—meaning software that did not require the user to pause briefly between words. Earlier versions of Dragon software used hidden Markov models to puzzle out the meaning of human speech, but this method had serious limitations compared to modern AI algorithms. In , Stanford researcher Fei-Fei Li created ImageNet—a massive training data set that spawned a boom in deep-learning algorithms used for modern, core AI tech.
After Microsoft researchers Dong Yu and Frank Seide successfully applied deep-learning techniques to real-time automatic speech recognition in , Dragon—now Nuance—applied the same techniques to its own speech-recognition software. Fast forward to today, and according to both Microsoft and Nuance, medically targeted versions of Dragon are in use by 77 percent of hospitals, 75 percent of radiologists, and 55 percent of physicians in the United States.
Microsoft and Nuance began a partnership in to deliver ambient clinical intelligence ACI technologies to health care providers. ACI technology is intended to reduce physician burnout and increase efficiency by offloading administrative tasks onto computers. A study published in the Annals of Family Medicine documented physicians typically spending two hours of record-keeping for every single hour of actual patient care.
Acquiring Nuance gives Microsoft direct access to the company's entire health care customer list. It also gives Microsoft the opportunity to push Nuance technology—currently, mostly used in the US—to Microsoft's own large international market.
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Nuance Communications, Inc. is an American multinational computer software technology corporation, headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, that markets speech recognition and . Apr 11, · Bloomberg sources claim Microsoft is in "advanced talks" to buy speech technology giant Nuance in a deal worth roughly $16 billion. While there are no guarantees . SpeechWorks was a company founded in Boston in by speech recognition pioneer Mike Phillips and Bill O'Farrell. The Boston-based company developed and supported speech-related computer software. Originally known as Applied Language Technologies, SpeechWorks went public in and tripled its See more.