For more than three decades Roberto Pieraccini has been actively
working towards the goal of building machines that can intelligently
converse with humans using speech. The technologies that enable a
machine to recognize the words of an utterance, understand its
meaning, decide how to act on that, perform an action and generate a
spoken message back to a user where very limited thirty years
ago. In spite of those limitations, with the help of good design
practices, effective tools, smart usage of data and machine
learning, we relentlessly made strides in advancing the performance
and bringing measurable value to users. The dream of a human-like
automated agent has not been fully realized yet, and many problems
remain to be solved, but we are at a time in history when those
technologies can enable a machine like the Google Assistant to be
light years ahead in performance and sophistication as compared with
analogous efforts of the past.
This talk is about the story of that journey, the problems encountered and the solutions that helped shape today’s technology landscape in this area. It is the story of the relentless improvement of the spoken human-machine technology, until today’s successes and beyond. It is also about the excitement of being working, at this very moment in time, on an exciting project like the Google Assistant, and help create a possible future for the machines who talk.
Roberto Pieraccini, a technology expert in the fields of speech recognition, natural language understanding, dialog, and human-machine interaction, is an Engineering Director for the Google Assistant in Zurich. He worked as a researcher at CSELT (Torino, Italy), Bell Labs, AT&T Laboratories and IBM T.J. Watson Research in the US. He was a technology leader at SpeechWorks International and SpeechCycle. He was the CEO of the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), at Berkeley, and led the Conversational Technology at Jibo, one of the first consumer social robot companies. He is the author of “The Voice in the Machine: Building Computers that Understand Speech,” published by MIT Press. He is a fellow of IEEE and ISCA, and a member of the AVIOS board.
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