Ahem — can I speak to a receptionist?

Voice recognition systems are making strides - just don't cough into one.

Voice recognition systems are making strides — just don’t cough into one.

PureRequest, a voice recognition software product for internal phone systems, is attracting interest in New Zealand, says Helena Fitzgerald, of reseller CallTime.

This reporter gave PureRequest a trial run at CallTime’s Auckland office to see if it lived up to manufacturer Philips’ claim of 96% accuracy. A nervous cough showed up one limitation of the system, which connected me to someone other than the person I was asking for.

Fitzgerald says while the company has made no sales of the system yet, she is confident they will come.

PureRequest works by having the client draw up a list of staff names and titles of departments and then, using the system’s tools, telling the system how the names will be pronounced, breaking language units into vowel-type units.

The system recognises about 60 voice units which correspond roughly but not exactly to vowel sounds; that is, the name Roger will be broken into “Ro”, “ge” and “r”.

“To build the application, you put the software in the box, use the tools to put in the names and make sure the system is talking to the PBX or voice switch,” CallTime solutions architect Stuart Ekdahl says.

“Pronouncement symbols are dragged and dropped into a name field; the process doesn’t involve writing any code.”

PureRequest runs on Windows NT and supports dualserver configurations and can carry 20,000 names per menu.

The benefits of PureRequest are pitched as removing or reducing the need for receptionists and increasing customer satisfaction by not requiring callers to go through menu options and key in extension numbers.

The system has a grammar spotting feature which instructs it to ignore umms, aaahs and a “please” tacked on to the end of a requested name.

And I can report that once I’d cleared the frog from my throat, my call went through to the correct person.

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