Entries in Speech (5)


iPhone 4s' Siri Is Lost in Translation with Heavy Accents

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Siri, the state-of-the-art voice recognition app on the new iPhone 4s, is having some translation trouble with heavy accents, especially across the pond.

Hundreds of iPhone 4s users from Boston to Chelsea, England, to Edinburgh, Scotland, have taken to Internet message boards, blogs and YouTube to express frustrations when the app can't understand their native tongues.

Apple designed the app to be the user's instant assistant, ready to provide answers to any question or statement when prompted -- including "what's the meaning of life" and "open the bomb bay doors" (a nod to the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey). Siri can schedule or move appointments, offer news and weather, look up facts, find restaurants, send text messages and browse the Internet to the user's heart's desire. That is, if the app can understand the request.

In a video posted by the Boston Globe, city native Bill Baker asked Siri, "Can I paaark my caaar in Haaavaaard yaaard?" The app responded with, "I'm not aware of any appointments about 'haven't yet.'"

In one YouTube video, which has garnered almost 35,000 hits in the past week, a Scotsman asks Siri, "Can you dance with me?" But the app interpreted that as, "can you dutch women."

Another Youtube video, a Scot asked Siri to "create a reminder," one of its basic response functions, but that prompted, "I do not understand 'create Alamain.'"

According to a statement on Apple's website, Siri can speak and understand the following languages: "English (United States, United Kingdom, Australia), French and German."

But the statetment goes on to say: "However, Siri is designed to recognize the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries listed above. Since every language has its own accents and dialects, the accuracy rate will be higher for native speakers.", a gadget and technology website, conducted voice tests on Siri using some American, English and Australian accents. Gizmodo reporter Sam Briddle speculated that the further someone's voice is from a "neutral" accent or proper accent, such as a Southern accent, a Boston accent or a heavy Midwestern accent, the more Siri might get "confused." Same goes for our English-speaking counterparts across the Atlantic.

"Very prominently, Scottish users have found themseleves completely blocked out," Briddle said. "The Scottish accent is so dramatically different ... it's a much thicker accent than a normal proper English accent and I think that just presented a problem for Siri."

The accent issue could be an "oversight" by Apple, Briddle continued, but Siri is the first of its kind to understand and respond to casual conversation.

"Natural language format is such a complicated thing," he said. "You're not just saying a pre-set command, which a computer has a pretty easy time understanding ... with Siri, there are a hundred different ways to say the same thing."

When you say something to Siri, some of the message is processed locally on the iPhone and some of it is beamed to Apple's servers hundreds or thousands of miles from where the user is standing. Then a response is sent back to the phone -- you'll notice there's a delay in response time for some questions. If it were all processed on your phone, Briddle said, it would probably be slower.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Would Obama's Infrastructure Plan Create Jobs Now?

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama isn’t likely to use the term “shovel-ready” in his jobs speech Thursday night, but he is expected to call for billions in new government spending for infrastructure projects he believes will lead to immediate hiring.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.  We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building,” Obama told a crowd Monday in Detroit.  “We’ve got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now.”

Sources knowledgeable about the administration proposals say Obama might seek to fast-track up to $50 billion in infrastructure spending in the next year as part of a broader transportation package -- an idea he first proposed a year ago but failed to gain traction.

The White House has not provided details of the plan or estimates for job creation, but economists on both ends of the political spectrum say infrastructure improvements might not make much of a splash in the short-term.

“It’s not good stimulus,” said Alice Rivlin, a Democratic member of the president’s Debt Commission and former head of the Office of Management and Budget.

“It doesn’t come online fast enough.  If you’re really talking about things that will create jobs quickly, you need to rely on either direct government hiring in the manner of things done in the Great Depression, or demand side things that will get more money spent by wage earners,” she said.

Alan Viard, an economist with the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said infrastructure spending can be “reasonably powerful” but cautioned additional funding might not be the most effective way to spend the taxpayers’ dime.

“I think we need to be cautious how much we expect any of these packages to do, regardless of who’s proposing them,” Viard said.  ”I think the jury is out on the question of how much demand stimulus can help when you have one of these long recessions following a financial crisis.”

John Horsely, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, says a concentrated infusion of $50 billion now could lead to the employment of hundreds of thousands.

“The president wants to jump-start the economy and create jobs, and so if he could manage to get the authority to spend $50 billion all in one year, you would probably have a much higher number of jobs created, if it all happened in one year,” Horsely said.

Republicans have signaled they are not willing to support additional spending that might add to the deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Global Markets Drop in Anticipation of Bernanke's Speech

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stock futures are slightly higher ahead of Friday's opening bell as investors await what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has to say on the nation's stumbling and stagnant economy.

Although no big announcement is expected, Bernanke could hint at possible steps the Fed may take to help the country avoid falling into a second recession.  He will deliver his speech Friday morning at a financial meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Anticipating Bernanke's speech, global markets are mostly down Friday.  European markets are trading lower and several Asian markets ended the day with deficits.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.86 percent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent, and China’s Shanghai Composite shed 0.12 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi, however, closed the day higher, adding 0.81 percent.  Japan's Nikkei index and Taiwan’s Taiex also saw gains, rising 0.29 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bernanke to Speak Friday; What's Left in Fed's Toolbox?

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke goes before the microphones on Friday to announce what, if anything, the Fed will do next to buck up the stumbling and stagnant U.S. economy.

Critics question whether the Fed has anything left in its toolbox it hasn't already tried, a mirror of critics' thoughts on President Obama's inability to turn the economy around. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer summed up Obama's prospects earlier this month: "He's out of bullets. He's out of arrows."

As far as the Fed goes, the world's stock markets seem to believe otherwise.  They rose this week, in part on anticipation that the Fed will take new steps to keep the U.S. from sinking further into recession.

Truth is, there's plenty the Fed still could do.  A number of unused tools remain, but none is without controversy.  Some, politically, are too hot to touch.  And still, others are so potent that their use cannot be imagined, short of some doomsday scenario.

It was just one year ago that Bernanke announced a second round of so-called "quantitative easing," dubbed QE2.  As with its predecessor, QE1, announced in March 2009, the idea was for the Fed to buy private debt on a massive scale, thus keeping interest rates low and invigorating the U.S. economy with a booster of inexpensive cash.  The stock markets of the world have benefitted, and traders this week were cheered at the prospect that Bernanke, on Friday, will announce QE3 or something like it.

It's far from sure, however, that Bernanke will choose that tool.

The effectiveness of the first two QEs has been questioned.  Critics acknowledge that easing has brought temporary benefits, but they argue those have accrued primarily to the stock market.  They question whether flooding the markets with yet more cheap money is a good thing for the economy long-term.

Lance Roberts, chief strategist for Streettalk Advisors, calls quantitative easing just so much "heroin."  The first two shots of it, he says, indeed invigorated markets.  But the effect was short-lived.  Another round of it might help the U.S. "temporarily avoid a double dip," but it would not solve "our long-term fiscal problems."

It's not only Fed outsiders such as Roberts who reject QE3. Some Fed insiders oppose it.  In a rare instance of internal dissent, three regional Fed presidents (Dallas, Philadelphia and Minneapolis) earlier this month voted against Bernanke's decision to keep interest rates low through 2013.  President Richard Fisher of Dallas said in a speech that the U.S. economy already is "awash with liquidity."

So, if not QE3, then, what?

"That's the $64 million question!" says Roberts.  We could see, he speculates, "massive loan-forgiveness.  But there would have to be federal support to keep the banks solvent."  And such a move, he notes, would only encourage the non-forgiven to walk away from their debts.

"Bernanke has very little other choice at this point.  All the Fed has available to it is the power to continue to suppress interest rates," Roberts says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner to Obama: Use Jobs Speech to Change Economic Approach

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner reacted Wednesday to the announcement that the president will soon deliver a major speech on jobs, encouraging Obama to change his leadership approach on the economy and “offer specific proposals that depart from his previous policies and allow us to find common ground and work together to put Americans back to work.”

“To get our economy moving, what the American people need from the President is leadership and serious solutions that reflect a true change in his approach to our economy and the role of government,” Boehner said in a statement. “We welcome him to our ongoing efforts to help create jobs, and look forward to seeing a detailed plan next month.”

Full statement below:

 “In the third year of his term, Americans are still asking President Obama, ‘Where are the Jobs?’  That’s why Republicans, in contrast to the Democrats who run the White House and Senate, have made creating a better environment for job creation our number one focus. From our Path to Prosperity budget to our Plan for America’s Job Creators – which was built on our Pledge to America – House Republicans have laid out a clear, consistent jobs agenda, and acted on it. The House has passed legislation to remove barriers to private-sector job creation, ease job-destroying regulations, expand American energy production, and significantly reduce our unsustainable debt burden. The House has led, but unfortunately we cannot act alone. Too many House-passed jobs bills remain stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and we continue to urge our colleagues in the Senate to act.

“To get our economy moving, what the American people need from the President is leadership and serious solutions that reflect a true change in his approach to our economy and the role of government. We welcome him to our ongoing efforts to help create jobs, and look forward to seeing a detailed plan next month. It is my hope the President will offer specific proposals that depart from his previous policies and allow us to find common ground and work together to put Americans back to work. In the meantime, Republicans will continue to advance solutions that will reduce economic uncertainty and create a better environment for private-sector job creation.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio