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  1. How Natural Is Natural Language Understanding?

    speechtechmag.com (May 3 2012)

    1. Thanks to Apple's voice assistant, Siri, natural language understanding has become the buzzword du jour not only in the enterprise, but in the consumer market as well. Interest in natural language understanding (NLU) exploded even before Siri arrived, when IBM's Watson supercomputer appeared on Jeopardy! last year, competing and ultimately holding its own against human contestants until almost the very end. According to IBM, Watson's data included the application of advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation and reasoning, and machine learning technologies to the field of open-domain question answering. "The trends seem to be quite clear," says Ilya Bukshteyn, senior director of marketing, sales and solutions, at Microsoft Tellme. "When you look at the kinds of technologies that consumers are snapping up and buying in record numbers, whether it's Kinect or Apple products, it's very clear that natural interaction [language] done right is very, very compelling. You don't want to be the last company not offering a natural experience in your category." Dan Miller, senior analyst and founder, Opus Research, says that NLU should allow people to speak naturally and have a reasonable expectation that a machine on the other end is going to understand their intent. "Accurate recognition is key to cloud-based resources that understand intent," he says. "What's happened in the last year, as [demonstrated by] Watson, [is that] computer systems that can claim to understand what people are saying and accurately render words have become more reliable. It ...

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