Talk to me, baby...

Ian Andrew Bell fork at
Wed Oct 22 17:01:28 PDT 2003

I use 411 with Bell often.

Emily invariably has a hard time with my white angle-saxon protestant 
queen's english accent, and passes me off to Betty, or Marge, or 
Jennifer.  Their fully DNA-based speech-to-text algorithm seems to be 
the only thing that works reliably.


On Wednesday, October 22, 2003, at 11:50 AM, jbone at wrote:

> 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]
> 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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