Voice Applications for Low Literate Users – Roni Rosenfeld (Carnegie Mellon University)

February 23, 2010 all-day

In the developing world, critical information, such as in the field of healthcare, can often mean the difference between life and death. While information and communications technologies enable multiple mechanisms for information access by literate users, there are limited options for information access by low literate users.In this talk, I will give an overview of the use of spoken language interfaces by low literate users in the developing world, with a specific focus on health information access by community health workers in Pakistan. I will present results from user studies comparing a variety of information access interfaces for these users, and show that speech interfaces outperform alternative interfaces for both low literate and literate users.I will also describe some of the challenges, both technical and non-technical, that are involved in developing spoken language technologies for low-literate users, and propose solutions for them. One of the technical challenges is the rapid generation and deployment of speech recognizers in resource-poor languages. I will describe our Speech-based Automated Learning of Accent and Articulation Mapping (Salaam) method, which leverages existing off-the-shelf automatic Speech Recognition technology to create robust, speaker-independent, small-vocabulary speech recognition capability with minimal training data requirements. This method is able to reach recognition accuracies of greater than 90% with very little effort and, even more importantly, little speech technology skill.The talk concludes with an exploration of orality as a lens with which to analyze and understand low literate users, as well as recommendations on the design and testing of user interfaces for such users, and a discussion of the potential of voice-based social media in these contexts.Joint work with Jahanzeb Sherwani.
Roni Rosenfeld is Professor of Language Technologies, Machine Learning and Computer Science at the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his B.Sc. in Mathematics and Physics from Tell-Aviv University in 1985, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1990 and 1994, respectively. He is a recipient of the Allen Newell Medal for Research Excellence. His research interests include the evolution of viruses and viral epidemics, and the use of spoken language technologies to aid socio-economic development.

Center for Language and Speech Processing