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Mobile speech recognition to revolutionize mobile marketing: GigaOm

While today's mobile devices are only beginning to embrace speech-enabled technologies, speech recognition is triggering the next revolution in mobile user experience, according to new research from GigaOM Pro and immr.

We will see an extraordinary shift in mobile, as speech technologies move from afterthought to a core feature in devices and innovators like Google provide platforms that make it easier for developers to build compelling new speech-enabled applications, according to the report. Advances in speech recognition, speech-to-text and text-to-speech will enable many new applications, from search to language translation and others that marketers can take advantage of.

"Speech technologies have reached a point that we expect them to radically change the way people use mobile devices," said Dr. Phil Hendrix, principal analyst for GigaOm and director of immr, Atlanta. "To date, no OEM or carrier has fully capitalized on speech technologies to deliver a functional, easy-to-use, well-integrated speech platform.

"They have yet to take advantage of the opportunity to differentiate themselves by launching a device or solution that takes full advantage of speech technologies," he said.

"However, we are seeing much more activity from companies like Google and others that are focusing on enabling particular applications using speech technologies."

As part of the GigaOm Network, GigaOm Pro delivers insights on emerging markets by curating the news, providing analysis and original research reports.

The Institute for Mobile Markets Research -- immr -- helps companies in the wireless industry recognize, evaluate and capitalize on opportunities created by new, disruptive technologies such as speech recognition.

Immr studies how customers are apt to respond to "really new" products and services.

Much the same way Apple has benefited from introducing the multitouch-enabled iPhone, the first companies in the mobile device space to fully develop and leverage speech-optimized mobile solutions will likely see significant returns.

The smartphone marketplace is highly competitive, and speech recognition could be the next disruptive technology to help mobile device makers differentiate, according to Dr. Hendrix.

"Apple is emphasizing voice control in the latest commercials for the iPhone 3G S, appropriately focusing attention on the next user interface -- the voice interface," Dr. Hendrix said.

"We've moved from legacy devices in which the keypad was the primary interface to smartphones with a QWERTY keyboard to the touchscreen, which was a significant breakthrough to make the interface much more intuitive and usable for a large part of the population," he said.

"We believe speech recognition will do the same thing -- it will have a similar impact."

The first devices with well-implemented speech recognition will grab significant mobile consumer mindshare and spur a new wave of revenue generating services for carriers and application developers, according to the report.

The report, entitled "How Speech Technologies Will Transform Mobile Use," describes speech-enabled developments that will fundamentally change the way in which consumers use mobile devices and apps.

It also outlines opportunities for carriers and developers to introduce and capitalize on innovative new, speech-optimized services.

And once carriers and developers get on board, marketers should be ready to pounce.

Vlingo (see story) and SpinVox (see story) are among the first companies to have launched applications with speech-to-text functionality for messaging.

"These products make sense given the growth of messaging, as well as the need to compose and send messages without having to view or key in text on a device," Dr. Hendrix said. "While touchscreens have been an advance in user interface, it has made it a bit more difficult to enter numbers and text.

"Vlingo refers to DWT, driving while texting, making the likelihood of an accident go up dramatically," he said.

In addition to speech-to-text and text-to speech functionality, voice control of the mobile device itself could open up a range of possibilities -- including previously inconceivable marketing tactics.

"As we conceived of speech technology, we don't mean merely speech recognition -- it includes synthesized speech and other functions," Dr. Hendrix said. "Marketers have a couple of options, one is for information about their products and services, factual-based information, consumers looking for store locations, product availability and information, whether there are spots open for an appointment or test drive.

"Queries on a Web site are typically in an XML format, so marketers can make use of that data, for example, ?What time does a movie start at the nearest theater?'" he said. "Marketers could develop more voice-friendly interfaces that allow them to not merely respond to a query, but provide that information back using synthesized speech that they have elected to control.

"They could even match the voice to the gender of the caller and do much more, not just facilitate sharing data about products and services, but to shape and influence the content and nature of the information that is provided, presented in a recognizable spokesperson's voice."

Dr. Hendrix acknowledges that those types of applications may be a year-and-a-half or two years out. However, the possibilities are tantalizing for brands and marketers.

"To the extent that you can personalize information based on the knowledge of an individual or an individual's habitual locations, advertisers' results are likely to be superior," Dr. Hendrix said. "A technology in development can detect ambient noise to pinpoint an individual's location, so ads and offers could be increasingly localized more accurately.

"This technology is literally capturing voice footprints," he said. "Does Starbucks, for example, have a distinct voice footprint, and it does, so this could pinpoint one's location much more precisely, and marketers could give an individual the option of opting in as they enter a grocery store.

"'Would you like to hear about offers from CPG brands while you walk down the aisle?'"

Savvy marketers shouldn't require much imagination to come up with a list of the possibilities such a platform would open up.

"Hearing about deals, rather than looking for bargains and trying to find items on sale randomly, would offer advantages for marketers of frequently consumed packaged goods," Dr. Hendrix said. "As the population gets older, it gets increasingly difficult for people to see.

"It can be hard to read text messages, and this would let people keep pushing the buggy without having to look down at their handset," he said.