Conversations with Devices

It may seem like science fiction, but the technology to allow for natural conversations with the devices in our pockets is just around the corner.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


January 20, 2010 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Imagine a world in which you can talk with your smartphone as if it were your personal assistant:

You: Do you remember that Italian restaurant I went to last week?
Phone: Yes, the restaurant was Mama Mia.
You: Is it open for lunch today?
Phone: Yes, it is open for lunch from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.
You: Text Chris and tell him I’ll meet him there at noon.
Phone: OK.

The conversation above involves three different apps—restaurant guide, calendar, mobile messaging—all working together seamlessly. While it may seem like science fiction, the technology to make this so is just around the corner. And Swiss innovator SVOX, an embedded speech software company helping advance Google’s new Nexus One phone, is spearheading the revolution.

Kurt Fuqua, vice president of SVOX USA, explores the technical challenges involved in the future of interactive voice communication in mobile devices during a panel discussion at swissnex San Francisco.

With moderator Dylan Tweney, senior technology editor, Fuqua and fellow panelists Jim Larson of W3C Voice Browser Working Group and Bill Meisel, president of speech-industry consulting and publishing firm TMA Associates, discuss just what it takes for a device to understand the meaning of language, how to make multiple applications work together, and how voice commands will soon allow smartphones to go way beyond clicks and menus to allow for truly natural conversations with the devices in our pockets.


6:30 pm doors open
7:00 pm panel discussion and Q&A
8:15 pm small reception and networking
9:30 pm doors close

Join this event’s LinkedIn group to send us your questions or network with other participants.


Kurt Fuqua

 Kurt Fuqua is vice president of SVOX USA. A computational linguist who’s created natural-language understanding software for mobile phones and who specializes in conversational systems, Fuqua was project manager for Pico, the speech synthesis in Android, part of Google’s Nexus One phone. He also created and maintains the Scalable Language API, an industry standard for natural-language applications. He’s also created comprehensive grammars for multiple languages.


Jim Larson

 James Larson is co-chair of the W3C Voice Browser Working Group, which creates language standards for developing speech applications. He is Program Chair of SpeechTEK, the world’s largest speech technology conference, and the new SpeechTEK Europe Conference to be held in London this May. He also teaches courses in user interface design, voice user interfaces, and XML languages at Portland State University and Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. He has written several books including /VoiceXML: Introduction to Developing Speech Applications/.


William S. Meisel

 William “Bill” Meisel is president of TMA Associates, a speech-industry consulting and publishing firm. Meisel also writes Speech Strategy News newsletter, is co-organizer of the Mobile Voice Conference, executive director of the Applied Voice Input Output Society, and edited a recent book, VUI Visions. In the 1980s, he founded and ran a speech recognition technology company that did early work in automating customer service and continuous-speech dictation of medical reports, after managing the Computer Science Division of an engineering firm eventually acquired by a large defense company. Meisel began his career as a university professor and wrote the first textbook on Computer Pattern Recognition. He’s published over 20 papers and holds a B.S. in engineering from Caltech and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from USC.


Dylan Tweney

 Dylan Tweney is a writer and editor based in San Mateo, California. He specializes in creating clear, compelling copy about science and technology. He’s worked for magazines, Web sites, podcasts, online v

ideo, corporate communications, and marketing programs, and is currently a senior editor at covering the technology beat, where he manages a staff of five reporters and editors and oversees Wired’s hardware blog, Gadget Lab.
Tweney has 15 years of experience as a journalist. His work has been published in WIRED, Business 2.0, PC World, and dozens of other publications. His corporate clients have included RLG, Cisco, Deloitte & Touche, World Book Encyclopedia, and TeaLeaf Technology. You can learn more at his blog, the Tweney Review.


For a video of Kurt Fuqua describing SVOX technology and challenges for speech recognition and synthesis in the mobile devices of the future, visit


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos