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On Human Misrecognitions…

September 24, 2008

My very first blog was called “Weapons for Christmas:…I had misunderstood my daughter when she said she wanted “Webkins for Christmas”. I’m always intrigued by errors in human speech recognition. I figure if we can’t do it right with all our sensory and extra sensory powers, then how in the world can a computer ever get it right? Or better yet, how can we apply the sensory tools in people to make our machines better.

One of Sensory’s Bluetooth engineers is a native Chinese speaker. Sometimes I have a difficult time understanding his accent, but he says that our BlueGenie Voice Interface on the headsets he works on always works for him. I wonder is that because Sensory’s technology is so good, or because he is well trained on how to talk by our technology. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

A couple of months ago I was in New York. I had a meeting in a building with a security gate entrance. When I signed in at the counter I was given a barcode pass. Upon exiting, I slid the pass in the security gate, but the gate didn’t open. I tried again and it still didn’t open. The security guard gave me a mean look and said something to me. He was a local guy with a New York accent. I had no idea what he said. I tried swiping my card again…gate still didn’t upon. Guard looked mad and grumbled the same thing again, sounded like “Japushida”. I had no idea what he meant, then he made a pushing motion with his hands…I wasn’t supposed to wait for it to open automatically, I was supposed to “just push it in” (I guess?). The body language clued me in!

I was on the phone yesterday and I heard the person on the other end tell me “My female is slowing down my system”…I quickly corrected that in mind to be “my email is slowing down my system, but the correction didn’t occur until I heard the word “system”…then the context made it all come together. I do remember a split second thinking “why is he talking about ‘his female'”…I didn’t know what he meant and it seemed so politically incorrect. Context certainly helps!


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