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Chapter Two. Technology Primer: About Sp... > What the Recognizer Hears (and the N...

What the Recognizer Hears (and the Need for Confirmation)

Telephone audio quality poses additional challenges. Conventional telephone microphones do not capture the full frequency range of spoken language. They often cut off the higher frequency sounds, such as much of the sound produced when someone says the letter s. Furthermore, every time someone speaks into a telephone microphone, the signal is compressed and transmitted across the telephone network, inevitably losing quality along the way. And these days, more people are speaking into tiny microphones on wireless phones in noisy environments and with less than crystal clear reception and transmission. By the time the signal gets to the computer, there's not much left resembling the original utterance. The recognizer has to interpret what the caller is saying using the very limited data that it receives, a job that can be difficult even for people to do well.

We've all become accustomed to listening to voices on the phone and figuring out what people are saying even when a cell phone connection drops seconds of a call. Still, we often confirm information on the phone with each other when it is important to be accurate (“OK, so we're going to meet at eight o'clock at Radius on High Street, right?”). We even may confirm details when talking to someone face-to-face due to the potential for someone hearing something incorrectly. Similarly, speech-recognition systems often confirm things with callers to ensure that it correctly understood what was said.


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