Speech recognition has been around a lot longer than Siri, but Apple’s dulcet-toned digital assistant helped bring the technology to a mass audience, and inspire futuristic visions like the one voiced by Scarlett Johansson in “Her.” Adam Cheyer, one of the co-founders of Siri (acquired by Apple in 2010), says speech recognition is poised to become more widely used and more sophisticated. We spoke with him at a recent Techonomy dinner in San Francisco. Improvements to speech recognition have happened “at a fairly linear rate” over the past 40 years, he said, but massive data collection is about to yield “the largest leap in progress … that the field has ever seen.” While Cheyer acknowledges that speech recognition is “just one tool in how people interact with computers,” he believes that seamlessly combining touch and voice interfaces will lead to new applications in fields like education and profoundly impact people’s lives.
(Cheyer is also an advocate for another form of voice recognition, as he explains in this video.)