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Wed, Aug 24, 2016 11:03 pm

Voice recognition software surpasses humans typing

I've had my current Android smartphone for several years, but have never tried its voice recognition features. I did try the feature on my prior phone, but after a few frustrating attempts to just have it call home when I said my wife's name, I deemed the feature useless to me; it was too aggravating to have the phone say something like "Did you say..." followed by something entirely unrelated. Though I might eventually get it to dial our home number, the process was more time consuming than for me to just type in the phone number. But after hearing an NPR report today while I was driving home on a recent study conducted jointly between researchers at Stanford University, the University of Washington and the Chinese search engine company Baidu that pitted humans typing on Apple iOS keyboards against Baidu's speech recognition software, I'll see how well the speech dictation software works on my current phone. The results of the study can be found on a Stanford University site at Speech Is 3x Faster than Typing for English and Mandarin Text Entry on Mobile Devices.

For the speech transcription method, the researchers used Baidu's Deep Speech 2 deep learning speech recognition system. The software took the spoken input and converted it to text. Recognition errors could then be corrected by the study participants by either speech or the smartphone's keyboard. That method was found to be three times faster than the participants relying solely on their typing skills on the keyboards for English and 2.8 times as fast for Mandarin Chinese. And, strikingly, the English error rate was 20.4% lower, and the Mandarin error rate 63.4% lower, than the keyboard method. I don't know Mandarin, but a 20.4% lower error rate for English is significant.

I took a typing class in high school - when I was in high school typewriters were still common - after the typing teacher stated that it would be useful for typing papers for those of us who hoped to go on to college. I bought a cheap typewriter in college, but didn't use it much, instead I had most of the papers I needed to be typewritten typed by a local high school teacher who, as a side business typed papers for the nearby university students at a nominal cost. She also proofread the papers, correcting spelling and grammar errors, which I felt was worth the cost of paying to have papers typed that would be an important part of my grade. But, though I didn't use the typing skills I learned in the high school typing class a lot for typing papers, I found those skills invaluable for the many later computer courses I took. So, I'm a fairly fast typist on a full size keyboard, but I'm very slow on the tiny keyboard on my phone and am akin to the sloth, Flash, in the movie Zootopia when compared to some of my nieces - one of my nephews bought a phone for his younger sister, but had to quickly change the text plan when she had 3,000 text messages one month. For her, typing her text messages might be faster than using the voice recognition feature on her phone, but, even though the voice recognition software on my phone is doubtless far less powerful than that of Baidu's Deep Speech 2, I'll try that feature of the phone, since I would also expect there has been improvement in the intervening years since I first tried the feature on a prior phone. As Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng noted "Humanity was never designed to communicate by using our fingers to poke at a tiny little keyboard on a mobile phone. Speech has always been a much more natural way for humans to communicate with each other."

Ng also stated he looks forward to the day when his future grandchild comes home and asks, "Is it really true that when you were young, if you came home and you said something to your microwave oven — did it really just sit there and ignore you? That's just so rude of the microwave." As we move futher into the Internet of Things (IoT), I expect that people talking to their microwaves and other household appliances will become common.

A text version of the NPR article, which was broadcast on All Things Considered, is available at Voice Recognition Software Finally Beats Humans At Typing, Study Finds.

[/news] permanent link

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 7:41 am

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy, matey, don't forget today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Who was the most successful pirate that ever lived? Not Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, nor Captain Kidd nor Calico Jack, nor perhaps any other male pirate. That honor could arguably be given to Ching Shih, also known as Cheng I Sao, a female pirate. Whereas Blackbeard was decapitated after losing a battle with anti-pirate forces led by Robert Maynard and Captain Kidd and Calico Jack, who gave us the emblematic Jolly Roger pirate flag, were hanged, Ching Shih died in comfort of natural causes after a very successful career as a pirate.

In her heyday as a pirate, Ching Shih's Red Flag fleet numbered more than 1,500 ships and she controlled upwards of 80,000 sailors. She was able to repel numerous attack by the Chinese navy as well as the many Portuguese and British bounty hunters brought in to help capture her. Finally, in 1810, the Chinese government tried a different tactic and offerred her amnesty if she would give up the life of a pirate. She accepted and opened a gambling house. She died of natural causes in 1844 at the age of 69, a successful businesswoman and grandmother.


  1. Ching Shih
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Most successful pirate was beautiful and tough
    Date: August 27, 2007
    Features Articles from CNN
  3. Blackbeard
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  4. Robert Maynard
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  5. William Kidd
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  6. Calico Jack
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  7. Jolly Roger
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mon, Jan 19, 2009 8:28 am

Circuit City Closing

If you visit Ciruit City's website today, you will find the homepage has been replaced by a notice that the company is closing its stores in the U.S. The homepage states that 34,000 employees will be losing their jobs as a result of this action. The webpage states "Due to challenges to our business and the continued bleak economic environment, Circuit City is going out of business and the company's assets will be liquidated to pay off creditors."

The company provides a brief history for itself on the page stating "Founded in 1949 as the Wards Company, Circuit City is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. At the time of the liquidation announcement (January 16, 2009), the company operated 567 stores in 153 media markets in the U.S. and approximately 765 retail stores and dealer outlets in Canada."

The webpage states that a liquidator will be selling off the remaining inventory in the U.S. stores and that liquidator will be setting prices for items in the stores.

Circuit City made the announcement that they are going out of business on January 16 and stated that closing sales will start as early as January 17, 2009 with the expectation that they will conclude by the end of March. The stores will be closed when the liquidation sales are completed.

The announcement also states that associates at the company's headquarters have been asked to return today, Monday, January 19 to find out more about their status and to retrieve their personal belongings.

[/news] permanent link

Thu, Nov 06, 2008 10:02 pm

NSA and the Army Seek Quantum Physics Answers

The NSA and the US Army Research Office are seeking answers to quantum physics questions. They have 3 broad goals:

The agencies expect to make one to three awards of less than two hundred thousand per year in 2009.

The agencies stipulate that "Investigators should presuppose the existence of a fully functional quantum computer and consider what algorithmic tasks are particularly well suited to such a machine."


  1. NSA and Army on quest for quantum physics jackpot
    Date: October 28, 2008
    Network World

[/news] permanent link

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