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

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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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.

(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.

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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 51734th edition (March 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016858
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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