Do You Speak American?

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Researchers and technology companies alike want to move from today's speech recognition systems with their highly restricted vocabularies and unnatural pauses between words (think: directory assistance or booking a train ticket) to the Star Trek or 2001: A Space Odyssey (the HAL 2000) scenario where computers can engage in spontaneous conversation. But teaching computers to understand and respond to completely naturally spoken dialogue is, in the words of one expert, like teaching computers to breathe.

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