Where Speech Recognition Is Going (click for full article) "Until recently, the idea of holding a conversation with a computer seemed pure science fiction. If you asked a computer to "open the pod bay doors"-well, that was only in movies. But things are changing, and quickly. A growing number of people now talk to their mobile smart phones, asking them to send e-mail and text messages, search for directions, or find information on the Web. "We're at a transition point where voice and natural-language understanding are suddenly at the forefront," says Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer of Nuance Communications, a company based in Burlington, Massachusetts, that dominates the market for speech recognition with its Dragon software and other products. "I think speech recognition is really going to upend the current [computer] interface." Progress has come about thanks in part to steady progress in the technologies needed to help machines understand human speech, including machine learning and statistical data-mining techniques. Sophisticated voice technology is already commonplace in call centers, where it lets users navigate through menus and helps identify irate customers who should be handed off to a real customer service rep. Now the rapid rise of powerful mobile devices is making voice interfaces even more useful and pervasive."