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The Voice in the Machine: Building Computers That Understand Speech Hardcover – March 23, 2012


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The Voice in the Machine: Building Computers That Understand Speech + Spoken Language Processing: A Guide to Theory, Algorithm and System Development + Statistical Methods for Speech Recognition (Language, Speech, and Communication)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016858
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"With the explosive growth in speech applications on Android, iPhone and other devices, The Voice in the Machine is a timely read. It relates the 50+ year quest to develop voice recognition and synthesis, explains how the technologies work, and contains enough anecdotes to make it fun."--Alfred Z. Spector, Vice President of Research, Google, Inc.



"There are many books on speech technology, but this is the first to explain the technology against a backdrop of the broader forces that have shaped the field. This will become a must-read text for those interested in what speech technology is and how it has developed."--Robert Dale, Centre for Language Technology, Macquarie University



"Roberto Pieraccini's fascinating book takes us on a tour of human speech, modern techniques for speech understanding and generation, and the problems of deploying it in real industrial applications. By using examples, he conveys the essence of modern statistical speech processing without resorting to mathematics. This book is both entertaining and educational, and highly recommended."--Steve Young, Professor of Information Engineering, University of Cambridge



"This is a fascinating tour of the development of modern speech technologies and applications…A wonderful historical account of the growth of speech technology." -- C. Tappert, Choice

About the Author

Roberto Pieraccini, Director of ICSI, the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, has been active for more than thirty years in speech research and technology.

More About the Author

Since January 2012 I am the director of the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, CA, an independent research institution affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley, which includes world-famous scientists in the most disparate computer science disciplines, such as internet networking and security, computer speech and vision, advanced computer architectures, neurosciences and bio-informatics.

I have been in the speech technology research and business for more than 30 years. Prior to joining ICSI, I was the Chief Technology Officer of SpeechCycle, a company specialized in advanced spoken human-machine interaction systems for enterprise customer care (yes, those annoying "please tell me the reason you are calling about" computers that prevent you to talk to human operators when you need them). Trying to make those annoying computers better, I led an effort to develop new technology that tried to make those computers learn from their own mistakes and, hopefully, improve.

Before SpeechCycle, around 2003-2005, I managed a speech research team at IBM T.J. Watson Research, in Yorktown Heights, NY and prior to that, between 1999 and 2003, I was at SpeechWorks International, which is now known as Nuance, today's largest worldwide computer speech company.

The turning point in my computer speech research carrer was when I joined AT&T Bell Laboratories (which became then AT&T Shannon Laboratories) in 1988, where I worked with some of the most influential scientists in computer speech, such as Larry Rabiner. I arrived at Bell Laboratories from Italy, where in the 1980s I was a researcher at CSELT, the laboratories of the national Italian telephone company.

During all this time, I wrote, as an author or co-author, about 150 scientific papers and articles in the fields of speech recognition, spoken language understanding and dialog, multimodal interaction, and machine learning. I am best known for my original contributions to statistical methods for spoken language understanding and machine learning for spoken dialog systems.

My book "The Voice in the Machine" on the history of computer speech understanding technology, published by MIT Press, tells the story of 60 years of computer speech technology, in a way that is accessible to general scientific readers.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Nonetheless, the book is a good read for someone interested in this technology.
Samir Bajaj
As I got closer to the end of the book, I became sadder and sadder, realizing that the time when I would be entertained and educated by Roberto was drawing to a close.
Murray Spiegel
It takes a technical subject and does a really good job of showing the essence of the issues involved.
Maynard Handley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Samir Bajaj on June 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Having just completed a course in NLP, I was looking for an introduction to speech processing in order to prep for more advanced reading on the subject. Pieraccini's book was just what I needed.

The author starts out by describing in convincing detail why human speech is so complex and difficult to understand, and to recreate in a lab or a commercial setting. He then goes on to describe early attempts inspired by AI, eventually arriving at statistical approaches that are the basis of most modern speech processing systems.

I like the book in its broad coverage, and while I do realize that the book is not aimed at techies, I'd have appreciated a little more coverage of HMMs and EM.

At a handful of places, there are some editing oversights that are simply disappointing for a book from a writer of this caliber (Ch. 5: "...De Mori, who pursued a brilliant carrier first at McGill..." -- career, not carrier).

Nonetheless, the book is a good read for someone interested in this technology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Murray Spiegel on October 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Roberto Pieraccini's The Voice in the Machine is a phenomenal read. I found myself enjoying every single page. The writing is clear, precise, personal, folksy, with entertaining anecdotes. As I got closer to the end of the book, I became sadder and sadder, realizing that the time when I would be entertained and educated by Roberto was drawing to a close.

Mostly about developments in the speech recognition field (for completeness, Pieraccini has one chapter on Text-to-Speech), it's a very well-written, comprehensive survey of the history and current developments in speech technology.

It covers everything from the earliest attempts, through all the government-sponsored ARPA speech recognition challenges, to recent commercial deployments. The book would well serve as a reference for a college course or just for leisure reading: it's the best example I've ever seen of a book that explains concepts behind complex math, intuitively, without using a single equation. Roberto's writing style could almost be called poetic. It definitely conveys the passion behind the science. You must get this!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Bloom on June 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has been in the speech industry for quite some time, I can tell you this book is a terrific starting point for business people and students alike. Pierracini's great anecdotes are what makes this so enjoyable. Whether it's HAL 9000 or Victor Hugo he is employing to convey his point, the author makes learning enjoyable.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paolo Baggia on August 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading this book! It is a comprehensive description of the evolution of the speech technologies focused on the major results of research and the changes of directions that the technology had in the last decades. The last chapter is about the advent of Siri and what will happen in the next future. Reading the book you will encounters many and many protagonists with their anecdotes, ideas and achievements.

I see two main categories of people that might gain great advantage by reading this book. The first are those not involved in the evolution of speech technologies, the second are the insiders, who were involved either in research or at any level, even non technical, in the speech industry. For the former the book explains how a complex technology evolves in reality with all the roadblocks, turns, and steep paths while the author puts all his effort in explaining very complex engineering problems without formulas or technicalities, but using simple and enlightening analogies and examples. The book will help them to understand what is behind Siri, Google Voice, or every other speaking machine. For the latter, the professionals of the voice science and industry, it is very interesting to see how the author assembles a map of the past and current technology, the motivations and the forces behind it, and shows how all the pieces fit together in a technological landscape of the area in which they are currently engaged. For them it is like stepping out for a minute to gain a vantage point perspective and different points of view.

I belong to the second category because I spent 20 years in R&D in the research lab in Italy where Roberto Pieraccini moves his first steps and then I was deep involved in the newborn speech industry.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maynard Handley on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book deserves 6, 7, 8 stars. It takes a technical subject and does a really good job of showing the essence of the issues involved.
Be aware that the target audience is NEITHER
- people who already understand computer speech technology (unless perhaps they want to learn some history) OR
- the intellectually lazy. This is a difficult subject, and to get the most out of it, you will occasionally have to close the book and think about what you have just read.

But assuming you are in this target audience (you're an engineer in another field, a physicist, an astronomer, basically someone curious about the world around you) and want to learn the basic history, ideas, successes, and failures of computer speech understanding, I have never come across a book close to as good as this.

I only wish there were a comparable book in similar fields like computer vision, or computer translation.
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