Speech recognition has come a long way in 50 years | Science News

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50 Years Ago

Speech recognition has come a long way in 50 years

Excerpt from the March 4, 1967, issue of Science News

12:30pm, February 16, 2017
talking to a smartphone

SAY WHAT?  Hello, Siri, can you understand me now? That conversation goes much differently today than it would have in the 1960s, when devices only knew nine words.

Computers that hear

Computer engineers have dreamed of a machine that would translate speech into something that a vacuum tube or transistor could understand. Now at last, some promising hardware is being developed.... It is still a long way from the kind of science fiction computer that can understand sentences or long speeches. — Science News, March 4, 1967


That 1967 device knew the words one through nine. Earlier speech recognition devices sliced a word into segments and analyzed them for absolute loudness. But this machine, developed by Genung L. Clapper at IBM, identified the volume of a pitch segment compared with its neighbors to account for the variability of human

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