Talk to me, baby...

jbone at jbone at
Wed Oct 22 11:50:47 PDT 2003

Voice XML gets some traction?  I can't speak to Emily (huh, huh, huh - 
pun intended) but I know that if I ever meet Claire from Sprint in some 
virtual bar sometime I'm going to try to give her a piece of my mind.  
Not hopeful that this'll go anywhere ---  "I'm...   sorry, I didn't 
understand that."  That patronizing tone, aaaargh!  But I'm going to 
overload her puny Markov chains trying. ;-)

Anybody hereabouts a Bell Canada customer w/ experience w/ Emily?

[Hmmm...   a quick Google reveals that Sprint is a customer of Nuance 
as well.  Perhaps Emily and Claire are siblings. -jb]



Talking to a computer named Emily
Posted on:Wednesday, October 22, 2003

In "2001: A Space Odyssey," a smooth-talking supercomputer named HAL 
9000 (named after a fictional lab in Urbana, Illinois) sang, carried on 
conversations and killed humans who tried to unplug it. In 2003, the 
HAL is here, but its name is Emily and it gives out telephone numbers.

Emily is actually a voice-automated directory service Bell Canada 
installed, according to Chuck Berger, CEO of Nuance Communications, the 
software company that came up with the system. The Nuance software is 
based on Voice XML, a version of the Extensible Markup Language for 
enabling voice applications.

Rather than navigating through preset options on a keypad or speaking 
to an attendant, Emily (Emilie for French speakers) digests an oral 
query and spits out an answer. Voice-automated call centers will, 
Berger hopes, become one of the hot new Web services that will allow 
companies to reduce the size of their help desks and increase customer 
satisfaction by making it easier to access information. British 
Airways, he asserted, cut the average cost of a customer support call 
from $3.50 to 15 cents.

"Next year, some major financial institutions will complete the pilot 
programs," Berger said. Wells Fargo is on the verge of deploying a 
voice-activated customer support service. Advances in the software will 
also reduce implementation costs.

But will customers like it? Acceptance is "part technical, part 
cultural," Berger said. Spoofing the system has already spawned a Web 
site. Could a sequel be next?

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