Airline Information System, 1989 - AT&T Archives - speech recognition
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One of the first customer-facing computer speech recognition systems, developed at Bell Labs, is profiled in this short film from 1989.
Your host for this talk-through of one of AT&T's first customer-facing speech recognition services is David B. Roe, at the time the head of the Applied Speech Research Department at AT&T's Bell Laboratories. He was also one of the editors of Voice Communication Between Humans and Machines, published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1994.
In 1986, AT&T rolled out SRS, or Speech Response Service, for banking and airline reservations. SRS relied on the customer to use their touch-tone phone for responses, rather than giving a voice reply. So the Airline Information System was a vast improvement, only three years later, in terms of a computer being able to parse and respond to (limited) natural speech over telephone lines within a realistic time frame.
The system in this film (1989) had a vocabulary of 132 words and gave an almost-real-time response. Yet, just 10 years earlier (in 1979), a voice recognition system in development at the Labs had a similar 127 words, but, more importantly, took "five times real time" for a computer to be able to process the response. Clearly, the concepts were in place then, but processing speed had to increase to a certain level for people to be genuinely able to 'talk' to a computer.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ
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