Accents and Speech Recognition

Anyone who’s ever used Siri has likely experienced the frustration of not being understood. There’s a fundamental – almost existential – panic that surfaces when someone else doesn’t know what you’re saying.

It’s an even bigger problem for people with accents other than “General American English”[1]. Voice interfaces struggle with accents, from regional American accents to foreign-accented speech. But why?

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Earning our Trust

Earning our Trust

Technology is becoming smarter. Our phones talk back to us, our Netflix accounts make custom movie recommendations, and soon enough, our cars will be able to drive themselves. Some of the decisions our machines make will be trivial (such as which movie to watch), but many will be more impactful on our lives. For example, self-driving cars will need to decide when to change lanes, which routes to take, or even how to avoid an accident. As users, we must determine whether we think these are the right decisions; thus, an essential element of our relationship with machines is the level of trust we place in those machines.

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The Semiotics of the Road

Human beings are not stationary creatures. We spend significant portions of our lives in transit, whether on foot, public transportation, or by car. When we travel from Point A to Point B, we invariably encounter other human beings. These encounters – and the way we navigate them – are governed by a very complex system of rules. Many of these rules are unconscious, many are a function of cultural norms, many operate under physical or artificial constraints, and many are decided instantaneously.

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