Nuance’s Connected Cloud Adopts a High Profile at CES; Foundation for Intelligent Virtual Assistants for Mobile, Autos and Home
Nuance Communications has launched a number of new products and partnerships at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Collectively, the recently launched products and services provide a blueprint for how Nuance speech processing technologies – automated speech recognition (ASR), natural coupled language understanding and voice biometrics – in conjunction with other emerging pattern recognition and hands-free technologies – are defining the state-of-the-art user interface as made manifest for mobile devices, wearables, automobiles and home electronics.
1. Ubiquitous Natural Language Understanding
On December 2, Yahoo! bought SkyPhrase, a start-up specializing in Natural Language Understanding, specifically tuned to let people ask about sports statistics. While many analyst saw the acquisition as a big step toward Yahoo adding a humanlike interface that might extend the service life of the company’s mail, news and financial information resources, it is most likely that Yahoo will use the new IP to help its fantasy football users to say something like, “How well does Adrian Peterson do in domes in November?” and get immediate, meaningful answers.
On the heels of this week’s unprecedented $13 billion mortgage settlement by JP Morgan Chase for its bad lending practices, a Spain-based speech analytics firm is targeting the financial services market with software tools to monitor and manage financial traders’ behaviors. Fonetic, a 10-year old private company, provides a cross-channel technology to analyze and decode trader interactions via speech analytics for phone, email and chat communications, and social media monitoring.
Genesys Labs has leaped ahead with its efforts to assimilate recent acquisitions by presenting three sets of options to its wide variety of customers and prospects. It has organized a set of contact center capabilities into three distinct “editions.” Each is a version of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform (CXP) but each is tailored to specific sizes of contact center implementations.
Earlier this month, Opus Research organized and produced Voice Biometrics Conference London 2013. This was the tenth VBC event hosted by Opus and featured case studies, industry experts, and technology providers showcasing the latest in strategies to prevent fraud with multi-factor authentication and improve the customer experience.
In this video below, produced by Nuance Communications, several of the VBC London speakers and attendees — including representatives from DBS, ING Bank, Vodafone, Australian National Tax Office, Aite Group and others — share their insights on the value proposition for voice biometrics and predict how future applications in multi-channel environments and mobile commerce will help drive adoption.
Barely four months have passed since Aspect’s acquisition of Voxeo and the parent company is already aggressively marketing a robust, cloud-based contact center service called Zipwire, based on Voxeo’s core technologies. Targeting “small-to-medium businesses” (SMBs), the sweet spot of the new offer is contact centers in the 250 agent range, but Aspect says that the solutions scales “up to 1,800″ simultaneous users. For Voxeo, this reflects remarkable speed for incorporating the fruits of an acquisition into its primary offering.
IBM is following its own best practice as it moves the “cognitive computing” tools and resources that comprises Jeopardy-winning Watson into a developer-accessible, cloud-based resource. For readers who don’t recognize the reference, IBM’s Watson (with a human-like text-to-speech front end from Nuance) became a Jeopardy fan favorite as it defeated the two winningest contestants in the history of the game show. Since that time, IBM has continued to make significant investments in Watson, but the big news is that now it is ready to share those resources with a broad community of application and service developers through what it calls the “Watson Developer Cloud.”
Nuance Communications has released its “Next Generation Dragon Drive” integrating the fruits of its acquisition of Tweddle Connect with its broadly deployed line of Dragon-branded automotive offerings. As a result, drivers have new alternatives when it comes to taking advantage of speech-enabled services in cars. In addition to the mainstays of phone control, messaging, navigation and control of the audio entertainment supported by the car’s dashboard mounted “head unit,” drivers or passengers will be able to avail themselves of “fully customizable content and app delivery services.” In other words, if they want to access their accounts on Pandora and listen to their personalized playlists, they won’t be restricted to the services supported by the auto manufacturers’ exclusive deals with Sirius Radio, Rhapsody or other streaming content providers.
Dragon Drive’s secret sauce is a new “hybrid” architecture. In addition to Dragon Speech — which is an automobile-hardened, natural-language speech recognition resource — Nuance is introducing two new components. First is Dragon Link which is a communication management component that coordinates interactions between an app running on an individual’s smartphone and resources running on the car’s head unit. It takes care of authenticating the driver and and employing his or her user profile information for apps and services once they enter the car. But the real master of ceremonies is called Dragon Drive Connect; it is the result of the Tweddle acquisition and serves as a content delivery and user management service.
Dragon Drive Connect integrates or delivers content and applications that have been optimized for in-car use. Its line-up already includes social network leaders like Facebook and Twitter. It also includes services from Yelp, Infogroup, Slacker Radio, TuneIn Radio, Deezer, Rdio, AccuWeather, OPIS/ Gas Buddy, Xignite, STATS, INRIX, TomTom, West World Media’s Cinema-Source, MovieTickets.com, Reuters and others.
As vice president and general manager, automotive, Nuance Mobile, Arnd Weil, explains, Nuance knows that the tug-of-war between embedded resources in cars, mobile devices and “in the cloud” is not a “winner-takes-all” battle. That’s why Nuance has opted for a hybrid approach which, in effect, will provide a much more robust user experience. Weil expects one of the first areas where users recognize improvements is in the area of “Points of Interest” (POIs) that has always been problematic for providers of in-car navigation systems. Taking a connected approach will allow the Dragon Drive system to take a more dynamic approach to handling input that includes POIs. The system will have a larger vocabulary and will do a better job of associating natural language input with geographic locations. As a result there will be no more guessing games and fewer outright FAILs.
The Dragon Drive system is already taking on more of the attributes of an in-car personal virtual assistant by moving from pure “command and control” of in-car systems to a natural language input approach to task completion. Because car manufacturers have made significant investment in their own, branded speech-enabled systems and services, Nuance does not aim to replace them. Rather, they plan to do a better job of bringing the right resources to bear in order for drivers to reach their objectives safely.
As for availability, the expanded Dragon Drive platform is available in 12 languages, including U.S. and U.K. English, Canadian and European French, American and European Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Japanese – with additional languages to be made available over the next year. It is currently deployed with Audi, BMW, Daimler and Toyota.
Verint Systems Inc., a global leader in contact center monitoring, recording, analytics and “enterprise intelligence”, has agreed to acquire voice-based fraud prevention specialist Victrio. Financial terms were not disclosed. To this point, Victrio had marketed its solutions as an independent company often in conjunction with Verint’s rival, NICE Systems.
Victrio’s efforts have landed a set of marquee customers that include one of the largest commercial banks in the world and a leading issuer of payment cards. Based on months of real world results, Victrio’s clients are finding that voice-based fraud reduction has measurable impact on fraud loss. As Mark Lazar, Victrio’s CEO, explained, “We’ve brought the ‘data science’ into the mix and proven that our solutions can work at scale.”
That message was not lost on Verint and many of its existing customers. Nancy Treaster, SVP and General Manager of Strategic Operations at Verint, explained that Verint has been responding to RFPs from its existing enterprise customers with the Victrio’s solution. In many cases it offers a packaged solution that merges Verint-based portfolio of contact center software with Victrio’s services to bring a complete, risk-based fraud prevention solution.
As part of Verint, Victrio will see a large number of opportunities to augment Verint’s line of Actionable Intelligence® products and services for its global installed base. The ties with Verint also bring Victrio ready access to the call recordings that are the raw material for the database of voiceprints that are foundational to passive, predictive fraud detection. The respective sales teams will find themselves in front of new categories of decisionmakers, as well. Verint will find that its salespeople can take their message to top security and risk management executives who often pay short shrift to the problems that arise in contact centers; at the same time, Victrio will have a strong story to tell to the folks who want to limit their exposure to phone-based fraud without putting callers through time-consuming challenge-question-and-response rituals.
A silent winner in the acquisition is voice biometric engine provider Agnitio. It is the provider of the core voice biometric processing platform for Victrio’s solution. It also provides the speaker identification software that is a key component of Verint’s line of Security Intelligence solutions. Both Verint/Victrio and Agnitio will be present, as featured speakers and sponsors, at Voice Biometrics Conference-London (November 6-7).
Virtually every mobile phone, PC, tablet and laptop that has shipped in the past three years is equipped with a camera. As described in this report, voice security specialist SpeechPro offers a novel way to combine voice plus facial recognition to achieve very high levels of confidence when authenticating the identity of individuals carrying out personalized commerce, communications and collaboration.