Saturday, July 5, 2008

Microsoft and voice search

I read two apparently unrelated news items about Microsoft recently. The first was its acquisition of Powerset, a natural language search engine for retrieving information from Wikipedia. One Microsoft blogger explains the logic of the Powerset acquisition.

The second item was released by Spinvox, a speech-to-text transcription engine that can be adapted for a number of applications. This news release, which hasn't been commented on much, said that its new senior director for its Microsoft relationship will "charged with driving the co-development of Microsoft unified communications and enterprise applications with SpinVox services." So Spinvox is going to co-develop apps with Microsoft.

If you put these two technologies together, speaker independent speech-to-text and natural language text search, you would have a pretty powerful way of searching Internet content from your mobile phone. Powerset, in particular, still needs some work, but it exists as a proof of concept that you can use natural language to get answers from large text corpora.

Microsoft has been challenging Google on search presented visually, so far without much success. These two recent developments could signal Microsoft's attempt to create a market for voice search.

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