Say what! Speech recognition gets faster, more accurate on Windows Phone
Your Windows Phone is becoming a better listener.
In a blog post today, the Bing team announced that voice search and voice-to-text—two popular Bing-powered phone features—are now up to twice as fast and 15 percent more accurate, a feat accomplished by exploiting some recent biology-inspired artificial intelligence breakthroughs from Microsoft Research scientists.
Check out the video below to see Bing’s Stefan Weitz and MSR’s Michael Tjalve demo some of these improvements on Windows Phone 8—or just try them yourself (U.S. only for now). Tap the Search button, then the little microphone icon, and then tell Bing to find something. I said, “Show me movies playing in Seattle” and my search results popped right up. You can also try dictating a text message or email (again, just look for the little mic icon in each of those apps). If you’ve never played around with the phone’s speech recognition features, this how-to article is a great place to start.
Teaching a computer to understand the human voice in both real time and noisy real-life environments is no easy feat. And it turns out there’s a fascinating backstory to how Bing engineers and their Microsoft Research collaborators pulled it off. The Inside Microsoft Research blog dives deeper into the science behind today’s news.
As you’ll see, it revolves around something called deep neural networks. You pretty much need a PhD to understand the details of this stuff, but simply put what’s cool about the research is that it draws on biology and the human brain’s natural pattern recognition ability for inspiration. In practice, deep neural networks involve lots of mind-twisting math, racks of fast computers, and a mountain of data to learn from.
As the post notes, deep neural networks show promise for other phone-related applications, too. One is real-time language translation. Imagine popping open the Bing Translator app on your phone, speaking in English, and hearing your voice simultaneously translated into Mandarin—and the Chinese-speaking voice even sounds just like you.
Don’t expect your phone to do that any time soon. But as MSR’s Rick Rashid demonstrated at a recent conference (a story described in today’s post), it’s also not necessarily science fiction and just one example of what deep neural network research might someday make possible. <P></P></div></DIV></DIV></UL></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV></FORM></BODY></HTML>
Now in the Store: Fairway Solitaire for Windows Phone 8
Fairway Solitaire is an unusual but award-winning combination of golf and solitaire from Big Fish Games. The new Windows Phone edition features more than 350 hand-crafted courses—including 18 new ones you won’t find on any other phone. The app and first few courses are free—or unlock them all for $1.99. Download it now for Windows Phone 8.
The game has you aiming for long drives by playing as many cards in a row as you can. Sound difficult? There are golf course hazards like water and sand traps, and one comically angry gopher named McDivot determined to get in your way. But play your cards right and you just might play through. The game features a Live Tile that shows your running score (something else you won’t find on other versions of the game). Dozens of trophies, mini games, and a golf shop featuring power-ups, meanwhile, help keep you hooked.
N.O.V.A. 3, a first-person sci-fi stunner, launches on Windows Phone 8
Gameloft’s highly-anticipated first-person shooter N.O.V.A. 3 ($6.99) touched down in the Store this morning. The game costs $6.99 and runs only on higher-memory Windows Phone 8 models. Buy it now
In the game, you play under the helmet of Kal Wardin, former officer of the Near Orbital Vanguard Alliance, who’s been called back to war-torn Earth. His mission: liberate it from the alien Volterite army and recover a mysterious alien artifact.
But you’ll probably be mesmerized less by the game’s storyline than its stunning sci-fi visuals, which practically make you forget you’re not at home sitting in front of your Xbox. The game features 10 immersive levels across the galaxy and 20 Xbox Live achievements. It also lets you play alone or against others, either online or via local W-Fi. Group battles look especially cool: The game features 7 multiplayer modes with 12-player fights—and voice chat to coordinate your moves with friends in real time. In N.O.V.A. 3, multiple allies can also now hop in the same vehicle to head off to battle.
This game definitely sets a high bar for mobile FPS titles. What’s your favorite shooter for Windows Phone?
This month’s Windows Phone Photo Challenge: summer nights #reinvented
We’ve been impressed by all your submissions to our past Windows Phone Photo Challenges. So we want to show them off even more.
This month, we’re changing our Facebook cover photo to feature one of your photos. We’ll also showcase select fan photos on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and the Insider newsletter.
Our latest theme is Summer Nights #Reinvented, so send us photos taken with your Windows Phone that capture how you’ve reinvented a summer evening this year. On each photo that is selected, we’ll display the first name of the person who took the photo, their hometown and the name of the Windows Phone device used to take the photo. We can’t wait to see what you share!
Here’s an example of what your photo will look like on our Facebook page:
To submit your Windows Phone Photo:
1. Take an awesome photo with your Windows Phone.
2. E-mail your entry to email@example.com.
3. In the subject line of your e-mail, please write “CHALLENGE: SUMMER NIGHTS #REINVENTED”.
Feel free to take a look at our previous winners too: Pets, Favorite Places, Happy Holidays!, Love, and Photosynth.
When you send in your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, please let us know which phone you took it with, which photo apps you used, your name, what city/state/country you’re from, and 2-3 sentences describing the photo, the story behind it, and why you think it represents summer nights #reinvented. Here are some more details:
- The photo you send must have been taken with (and edited, if you prefer to edit) on a Windows Phone. Please attach the original JPEG file to your e-mail, with metadata included.
- Please name your image file using your first and last name, followed by the theme of the contest (this month it’s “Summer”). So, for instance, my e-mail might include a photograph named DavidChenSummer.JPG.
- Please use the highest resolution possible when sending your photos. One entry per person, please.
- This challenge runs from now until 11:59 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.
- Entries may be featured on our social channels within one week of submission. Entries will be judged on their creativity, resourcefulness, aesthetic beauty, and just the overall impression your photo makes on us.
- Read the full rules here.
Now in the Store: MapQuest for Windows Phone 8
It’s always nice to have options—and now there’s a familiar new one to help you get from A to Z. MapQuest, one of the original web-based mapping services, released its first Windows Phone app this morning. The app is free and works only on Windows Phone 8. Download it now
The MapQuest app gets the job done and looks good doing it. The clean, modern design shows real-time traffic conditions, calculates driving routes, and supplies voice-guided directions. Handy optional map layers make it easy to find restaurants, hotels, and other places of interest. Pin your destination to Start for quick access, with Live Tile updates based on your current location.
I definitely felt a little fond rush of nostalgia when downloading the app this morning. The service, which traces its origins all the way back to 1967 and a Chicago-based maker of paper maps, burst onto the web as MapQuest in 1996. (Today it’s owned by AOL.) Those printable maps reliably guided me to a lot of college parties back then. Now they’re going to help do the same for my kids’ play dates. How about you?