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tial reasons for voice communication for humans, and this thought has driven me to pour energy into speech recognition and synthesis for a long time—for the past 35 years.

I think we are still only halfway to our goal of an advanced or smart interface. From here on the scientific path to our goal only gets steeper.

Today we live in the age of information. Five billion people can benefit from an economically efficient society supported by computers and communications. This will become truer as we become more information oriented.

The NEC Corporation recognized the importance of integrating computers and communication long ago and adopted ''C&C" (computer and communications) as its corporate identity in 1977. In the future, C&C will become an indispensable tool for everyone—for many it already has. In this kind of environment, C&C must be easy to use. It must provide a friendly, natural, smart interface for people. Thus, the voice interface is an important component for the C&C of the future.

Recently, we have seen significant progress in speech-processing technologies, especially in the United States. At NEC we have also made a little progress with large-vocabulary recognition (10,000 words), speaker-independent continuous speech recognition (1000 words), and naturally spoken language understanding. Some of this technology is close to being commercialized.

I will not spend a lot of time discussing speech synthesis, but I must make one important comment. Prosodic features such as pauses, stresses, and intonation are related to semantic structure and emotion and are difficult to convey in written messages. But the role of these features will become very important in sophisticated smart interfaces.


There are many applications for new C&C technologies. In the area of public information services there are applications in employment, securities, risk management, taxation, health, education, marriage, entertainment, shopping, and even funeral arrangements. For business and personal use, there are applications in document design, presentations, publications, information access, and inter/intraoffice communication. And personal applications are also important: text preparation (dictation), e-mail, telephone, scheduling, and personal database management.

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