The Conversational Interaction Technology Innovation Alliance (CITIA) is a group of European organizations interested in the field of conversational speech technologies. On February 24-25, CITIA held its Roadmap conference in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of the Roadmap conference is to accelerate research and innovation strategies for European public and private sector organizations in the area of conversational technologies.
One session that I found particularly interesting was that of Steve Young, Professor of Information Engineering, University of Cambridge. Young spoke on the topic of “A Vision For Conversational Interaction Technologies (this link takes you to the presentation page; look at the top of the “Conference Programme” section to see the video for Young’s session).
Young offers rationale for why speech-enabled interfaces are likely to become more important in the near future. The more apps, devices, and “things” that become connected to the Internet, the harder it is for the average user to understand how to interact with them all. No one wants to learn to navigate dozens of individual user interfaces. Instead, we want a single, unified conversational interface that we can talk to. The ideal interface would be an intelligent personal assistant.
The technologies enabling these assistants are rapidly evolving. Young’s information lets him postulate that 2024 will be the year of the fully capable and fully conversational virtual personal assistant.
Young provides a brief synopsis of the technologies that make the optimal virtual personal assistant work. He touches on the areas of:
- Speech recognition and speech synthesis
- Semantic decoding and dialogue management
- Belief tracking and natural language generation
- Statistical natural language processing
- Sentiment and emotional analysis
Young believes there is a huge market opportunity for intelligent assistants. He lists the companies that he sees as the “Goliaths” in the business and contrasts them to the current “Davids.” Quite a few of the Davids have already been swallowed up by Goliaths in acquisitions. Can you guess who the Goliaths are? How about the Davids? Take a look at Young’s presentation to see if you guessed right.
I’m not sure exactly what the CITIA Roadmap holds, but 2024 is less than a decade away. Regardless of the outcome, the journey towards optimized conversational technologies is sure to be an interesting one over the coming years.