Basically, these programs listen to you speak and then convert the series of sounds (or phonemes) down into lines of code that the computer can easily understand.
While this process may seem foreign, IVR’s approach to speech-rec is actually strikingly similar to how the human mind deconstructs language and processes meaning.
Unlike a computer, though, our mind’s programming doesn’t come from a team of engineers but from lines of genetic code.
Recent research has shown a link between the so-called FOXP2 gene in our DNA and our ability to speak, according to an article in Scientific American.
The specific mutation in this gene that makes us unique is missing in most other animals, which could explain why we’re one of the few to have a language of our own.
But what if we were to inject this gene into another animal, like a mouse?
In a recent collaborative study between the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and several other neurological, biological, genetic, cognitive and medical institutes, a group of scientists injected mice with the humanized gene to see what would happen.
Astonishingly, the mice with our FOXP2 gene actually showed significant changes in their brains’ circuitry, matching patterns we know are linked in the human mind to speech.
Even more significantly, the mice injected with the mutated FOXP2 gene actually sounded different – granted, they didn’t start yammering on about cheese and taking over the world, but their ultrasonic vocalizations were different enough to conclude that the gene had altered the new-born mice.
So what does this mean for the IVR industry?
Unfortunately I think we’re a long ways off from simply injecting our own DNA into a computer to give it organic language learning abilities (although that’d be super cool).
In the meantime, new studies such as these are revealing exactly how the human mind produces speech and forms meaning through sound. By studying the make up of our genetic lines of speech code, we may in fact be able one day soon to alter our IVR’s speech recognition to look a lot more like our mind’s programming.
And that would be beyond cool.