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We need acoustic models in Indian languages 

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DQW Bureau
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The `Indo-European Conference on Multilingual Communication Technologies’

organized by Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) at Pune saw

industry experts underscoring the need for creating acoustic models in Indian

languages for practical use.

Dr S Ramani, director, H P Labs, India who delivered the keynote address on

`Speech Interfaces in Indian languages’ was of the firm opinion that automatic

speech recognition and text to speech in Indian languages was yet to come of

age. “We can create applications using tools available in the market, but good

local language acoustics are necessary for practical use,” he explained.

According to Dr Ramani, English continues to remain the main barrier for

access for IT tools. Most IT users in India use English and what is available to

the others is not adequate, he said. Just about five percent of the total Indian

population reads English newspapers today. For the 1.8 million PCs sold every

year, only 40,000 copies of Indian language software are sold.

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Barely one per cent use Indian language software, he pointed out.

The real problem, according to Ramani, is that most IT tools were originally

designed for sophisticated users. New simple designs are necessary for usage to

spread to billions of people and to overcome complexities, he said, underlining

the need the address the needs of the illiterate as well. How far can speech

interfaces go? Only a few special applications like finding train timings, or a

variety of important applications that every user can exploit. Simple mode of

speech communication is necessary, he said, adding that only speech interfaces

offer the hope of simplicity.

The problem with speech interfaces is that the technology is not robust

enough for widespread use. Moreover, special fonts have to be made by interface

design to cope with the ambiguity in speech, he said, adding that there are deep

problems in correct recognition of speech.

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Rajeeva Ratna Shah, secretary, DIT, was of the opinion that India’s major

problem was the growing economic as well as digital divide. He called for

applications that were low cost, voice activated, user- friendly and cheap as

well.

He also called for well-directed and focused efforts to do language

programming. If we can resolve the language issue, we can become major language

software providers to the world, he said. In this context, he called upon C-DAC

to transcend beyond fonts and keyboards and move onto areas such as word

processing, office software and text to speech software.

With more than 40 odd institutions working in language software, the

government has begun a special initiative in association with C-DAC, NCST, TDIL

and Vishwa Bharati to ensure that these work together in a connected manner and

there is no duplication in their efforts. RK Arora, ED, C-DAC, welcomed the

dignitaries.

Nanda Kasabe


CNS

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