Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kindle Text-to-Speech Dissected: Part 3 - Corporate History

As mentioned in previous articles, TTS has followed a long and winding road, with as many as 50 companies vying for the ultimate prize: a machine that can speak as well as a human.  Over the past 5 years or so, the computer speech industry has consolidated to 4 major companies, which has given an opportunity for a new round of speech-related startups to take a shot at the prize. So far, no TTS technology (without pre-set phrases) has been able to fool a human, but advances in technology have a funny way of 'popping' up all of a sudden.

There have been many colorful figures in TTS’ history, and this series of articles will take a closer look at a few starting with an in-depth interview with one of the key TTS figures in the last 25 years.  But first, a timeline of sorts is required to establish a temporal context on which the rest of the TTS historical articles can be based.  With that, the following is a list of companies, name changes, and acquisitions that have led to the TTS technology found in the Kindle today.

1939
Bell Labs' VODER is displayed at the 1939 World's Fair
1946
Stanford Research Institute founded
1958
IBM funds speech research
1958
G. Peterson, W. Wang, and E. Sivertsen produce speech using diphones
1961
IBM Text-to-Speech team formed, including Dr. Michael H. O'Malley
1962
John L. Kelly at Bell Labs uses an IBM 704 to 'sing'
1970
Xerox PARC research facility opened
1971
Cecil H. Coker at Bell Labs converts printed text into speech
1974
Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. is founded by Dr. Ray Kurtzweil to develop character recognition software for any font.
1979
Berkeley Speech Technologies (Text to Speech, Speech Recognition) founded by Dr. Michael H. O'Malley
1980
Xerox purchases Kurzweil Computer Products and runs it as Xerox Imaging Systems (1990-1999), and later as ScanSoft (1999+)
1982
Dragon Systems founded by husband and wife team Dr. James and Janet Baker
1983
Speech Technology and Research (STAR) Laboratory founded as a spinoff of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI)
1983
Eloquent Technology founded in Ithaca, NY by Dr.Susan Hertz
1987
Lernout & Hauspie founded in Belgium by Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie
1992
Visioneer (Scanner hardware and software) founded by Dr. Denis R. Coleman
1994
Nuance Founded as a spinoff of SRI's STAR lab (originally called Corona)
1994
ALTech founded by Mike Phillips
1994
Phonetic Systems founded
1996
Lernout & Hauspie acquires Berkeley Speech Technologies
1997-1998
Lernout & Hauspie acquire an additional 16 speech-related companies
1998
Lernout & Hauspie acquires Kurzweil Applied Intelligence
1998
AT&T Launches their Next-Generation TTS, later renamed AT&T Natural Voices
1998
ALTech renamed to SpeechWorks
1999
Visioneer purchases ScanSoft from Xerox and adopts ScanSoft as a company-wide name
1999
Lernout & Hauspie develops RealSpeak; the TTS system that would eventually make its way into the Kindle
2000
Lernout & Hauspie acquires Dragon Systems
2000
SpeechWorks Inc. acquires Eloquent Technologies
2000
Rhetorical Systems Inc. founded in Edinborough, Scotland
2001
ScanSoft acquires Lernout & Hauspie's Speech and Language division
2003
ScanSoft acquires Philips Speech Processing division
2003
ScanSoft acquires SpeechWorks Inc.
2004
ScanSoft acquires Rhetorical Systems Ltd.
2005
ScanSoft acquires Phonetic Systems Ltd.
2005
ScanSoft merges with Nuance and changes company-wide name to Nuance
2006-2009
Nuance acquires an additional 20 speech-related companies
2008
Amazon selects Nuance technologies' RealSpeak to provide TTS in Kindles
2009
Amazon releases the Kindle 2 and DX with TTS



A [rough] graphical version of the Timeline is available here.


Look for the next Kindicted article in the TTS series: an interview with...someone named on the above list!  Until then, happy reading!

9 comments:

  1. The slides suggest the Smart Sound DSP will handle real-time mixing, decoding, and post processing—all of which it will do more efficiently than the CPU.speech recognition program

    ReplyDelete