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February 22, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

Speech recognition software and systems company Nuance Communications Inc introduced two new products Monday as part of its ongoing v-commerce push. The Menlo Park, California-based company – which was a founding member of the V-Commerce (or voice-activated commerce) Alliance – has announced Nuance 6.2, an upgrade to its natural language speech recognition server, as well as Nuance Express, which is billed as a low-cost offering built on the same core technology. Nuance says that the two products now allow it to offer the industry’s first easy and cost-effective migration path from an entry-level speech system to a more advanced, natural language understanding application. Nuance 6.2 features natural language understanding which enables users to have natural, conversational interactions with systems that support large vocabularies and complex transactions. The new version of the product, which is mostly used in call centers, also features the security of tight integration with Nuance Verifier, a speaker verification product that creates and analyzes a caller’s voiceprint. Users are recognized and authenticated simultaneously so that when they say their name, for example, their identity is verified at the same time. Nuance 6.2 also includes Java and ActiveX application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow for easy integration with standards- based e-commerce servers and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platforms. The product also supports Nuance SpeechObjects(TM), a set of reusable components for rapid development of speech recognition applications. Other enhancements include single phrase correction and the ability to personalize applications on the fly. Nuance also claims the product has enhancements to the core algorithms provide up to a 40% improvement in processing efficiency and accuracy rates on live systems of about 97%. Nuance Express, meanwhile, is designed to offer the best of Nuance 6.2 in a low-cost package for entry-level applications. It is targeted at less complex, menu-driven, systems that require a vocabulary of less than twenty items and is said to allow programmers with no prior speech experience to develop applications with little or no training. With the two offerings, Nuance says, a company’s return on investment is protected as it moves from a basic speech-enabled system to a more complex one. The company says it will offer a cost-effective upgrade path for a customer looking to start with an entry-level speech recognition system built on Nuance Express and then gradually migrate to a more sophisticated, larger vocabulary system based on Nuance 6.2. Developers only need to learn one API set and development environment and can add more complex application components to an entry-level system as required. Installation of a new speech recognition server is not needed, the company says, and a credit towards complete Nuance 6.2 functionality is available on upgrade. Nuance 6.2 is available immediately, with development toolkits priced at $5,000 per user while deployment licenses start at $3,000, and are priced according to the complexity and capacity of the application. Nuance Express, meanwhile, starts at $250 per concurrent user. The company says both products are available for Windows NT, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, SCO Unix and Digital Unix and support leading IVR and telephony platforms.

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