TellMe Rolls Out Better Speech Recognition And An Almost-Sexy New Voice Called Zira

TellMe, which Microsoft bought two years ago, is rolling out an upgrade to its call center automation software which should improve its speech recognition rates. It is also adding Global Crossing as partner for reselling its VoiP carrier service, along with AT&T and Verizon. TellMe handles 2.5 billion calls a year for customers such as American Airlines and ETrade. Even a one percent improvement in automated call completion rates translates into millions of dollars a year for large call centers.

TellMe will be deploying a new text-to-speech engine with an almost-sexy female voice called Zira. She only sounds slightly robotic. Here is a clip you can download:zira_businesslisting

Another set of technologies can break up sentences into their constituent parts so that if the software doesn’t understand something it can ask for only the piece of missing information instead of repeating the entire question. For instance, if you say you want to fly from New york to San Francisco on Wednesday, and it got everything but the day, it would only ask you what day you want to fly instead of making you repeat your entire itinerary.

TellMe is adding a few other technology improvements under the hood as well, such as statistical models for predicting the next word you are going to say to narrow down the possibilities and acoustic modeling that adapts to your accent or speech pattern.

Finally, consumers will begin to see some of this speech-to-text technology in Windows Mobile 6.5. It will be able to read text messages in that Zira voice, and it will also make voice commands an input method for mobile phones running the WinMo operating system, which should be out some time in the fall.