Conversing with Computers – National Science Foundation Features David DeVault’s Research

Published: March 2, 2016
Category: News

The homepage and blog of the  National Science Foundation showcased recent natural language advances that let machines understand speech with human-like speed, accuracy.
In a recent research paper, DeVault and his students, Ramesh Manuvinakurike and Maike Paetzel, described the creation and evaluation of a high-performance game-playing agent called Eve.
In the game, users describe the pictures they see on their computer screen and the agent tries to guess which picture they are talking about as fast and accurately as it can. By using “incremental” (word-by-word) speech processing algorithms, the agent’s speed of understanding and response is so fast that its game performance rivals that of human-human teams playing the same game.
When compared to alternative versions of the agent that wait until a user’s speech is finished to try to understand and respond, users rate their interactions with the more incremental version of Eve as more efficient, more natural, and having better shared understanding.
“These findings underscore the importance of enabling systems to not only understand what users are saying, but to do so as quickly as a human would,” DeVault said.
The research received a Best Paper Award at the 16th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue (SIGDIAL 2015). It points toward the creation of voice interfaces for other applications that users may find more natural and efficient to use. Read the full post.
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