Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reviewing Vlingo's New iPhone App

I've been following the Cambridge speech-rec start-up Vlingo for a while (earlier coverage here).

Yesterday, they released their first app for the iPhone, which lets you talk to the phone to conduct Web searches, dial your contacts, update your Facebook status, and pull up maps.

In testing it out this morning, its accuracy rate seemed to be about 75 percent.

I tried to update my Facebook status to say "Scott Kirsner is playing with Vlingo's new iPhone app." It came up with " playing with Vlingo is new i phone app." So I tried again, saying, "... is playing with the new iPhone app from Vlingo," and got better results.

It quickly located the restaurant No. 9 Park on a map, as well as Diesel Cafe in Somerville and my home address in Cambridge.

With a Google search, it amazingly got "Hawaiian print quilts" on the first try, but was unable to snag the title of my latest book, "Inventing the Movies," after five or six attempts. ("In the kingdom movies"? Nope. "Investing the movies"? Close.)

The worst part of the app seemed to be voice dialing. You'd think this would be easy, since it's such a limited set of names. But the accuracy declined to about 50 or 60 percent here, in my unscientific test.

The main additional feature I'd want from this app is the ability to use Vlingo to compose text messages and e-mails. (The iPhone's keyboard is horrible!) I'd gladly pay...

There's a video demo on the company's site.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Future of Mobile: From the Emerging Technologies Conference

Here's some video I shot at last week's Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT. It features two local executives (Google's Rich Miner and Motorola's Liz Altman) talking about where mobile is headed -- especially with regard to open and proprietary operating systems. (This took place a day or two after the official announcement of the first Google/Android phone.)

Some notes from the panel (not direct quotes):

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch: It's still too expensive to develop an application that runs across a broad range of phones.

Liz Altman: Low-end phones will use proprietary operating systems.

Rich Miner: Agrees with that, but says mid-range phones are getting more capable, and will be compatible with the Android operating system before long.

Miner: Google will try to avoid bloatware - aim for simplicity - even as phones get more capable.

Lynch says that "thought interfaces" will be a promising way to interact with mobile devices in the future. Miner is bullish on speech, and mentions Vlingo, a Cambridge start-up. The idea of scanning barcodes of products to get more info about a product also comes up.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nuance v. Vlingo: Legal Battles in the Speech-Recognition Space

It's great to have the biggest stand-alone company in the speech recognition business here in Massachusetts: Nuance Communications. But I wonder if we're starting to see some negative effects... as Nuance seems to believe it owns all of the IP in the speech-rec field. They've been fairly litigious of late, and have yet to win a lawsuit in court.

Today's Globe column focuses on Nuance's latest lawsuit against a rival. This time, the defendant is Vlingo, a 35-person start-up in Harvard Square, co-founded by an ex-Nuance executive, Mike Phillips.

I prepared a chart that didn't run with the column, highlighting some of the other recent Nuance lawsuits. Here it is:

    2004 – Burlington-based Nuance Communications, Inc. (then known as ScanSoft, Inc.) files suit against Woburn-based VoiceSignal Technologies, Inc. for infringing a patent related to voice-controlled dialing on mobile phones, and trade secret misappropriation. In 2006, VoiceSignal sues Nuance for patent infringement related to an approach to correcting mistakes used by dictation software. In 2007, Nuance buys Voice Signal for $263 million, ending the litigation.

    2004 – Nuance sues ART Advanced Recgnition Technologies, Inc. of Israel for patent infringement over voice-controlled dialing for mobile phones. In 2005, Nuance acquires ART, ending the litigation.

    2006 – Nuance sues California-based Tellme Networks, Inc. over two patents related to directory assistance and call center technologies. Microsoft acquired Tellme in 2007, but the lawsuit is still pending.

    2006 – Nuance sues SoftMed Systems, Inc. of Maryland, alleging that SoftMed violated patents that cover centralized digital dictation systems and priority voicemail systems. The two companies later settled out of court.

    2008 – Nuance sues Vlingo, Inc. of Cambridge over a patent pertaining to adapting speech recognition software to individual users.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lawsuit to watch: Nuance sues Vlingo

Nuance, the biggest speech recognition software company in the world, is suing tiny Vlingo, a Cambridge start-up, for patent infringement. Vlingo co-founder Michael Phillips had been a Nuance employee before starting the company, which focuses on speech recognition on mobile phones. He took a year off to sit out his non-compete agreement before starting Vlingo.

From Nuance's press release about the lawsuit:

    In its complaint, Nuance states that Vlingo infringes a Nuance patent that covers a technique for adapting a speech recognition system to the speech of individuals or groups. In the claim, Nuance seeks monetary damages for infringement and injunctive relief to prevent Vlingo from continuing to infringe U.S. Patent No. 6,766,295, entitled “Adaptation of a Speech Recognition System across Multiple Remote Sessions with a Speaker.”

Update: Vlingo's PR rep just sent along this response, from CEO Dave Grannan:

    We believe this lawsuit is unfounded. Nuance has referenced a patent that has serious limitations in its coverage. The patent does not apply to vlingo’s technology; moreover, we have significant doubts regarding the patent’s validity. Vlingo’s technology is based on a license of IBM’s core speech recognition platform, which is used by hundreds of companies worldwide. Industry observers will recognize this as typical counterproductive behavior of filing frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to stifle competition. Vlingo will fight the lawsuit aggressively to its conclusion, while continuing to build on our tremendous momentum we’ve gained in less than one year since our public launch.

Some earlier video of Phillips doing a Vlingo demo is here. And Phillips is also mentioned in this Globe column.

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Today's Globe column: Google's prototype phones spotted in Cambridge

As soon as I moved back to Boston in mid-July, I started noticing that a lot of entrepreneurs were brandishing their new iPhones as status symbols. But an even rarer status symbol, I discovered, was being able to claim that you'd seen a prototype of Google's new cell phone, some of the software for which is being developed in Google's Cambridge R&D office. That's the topic of today's Globe column.

In today's Innovation Economy video, I talk about the phone, and interview the founders of two local start-ups working on cool new cell phone apps, Veveo and Vlingo. Veveo is doing video search; Vlingo (once known as Mobeus) is doing speech recognition.

I'd also gotten a tip a few weeks ago that Google will triple its space in Kendall Square and move from One Broadway (the Cambridge Innovation Center) to Cambridge Center (above the Marriott); while I'd planned to include that info as an aside in this Sunday's column, the BBJ published something first. Then, Watha wrote a short piece in the Globe yesterday.

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