Is a smarter Cortana set to take over IoT market?

Microsoft’s speech recognition system just got a whole lot more reliable. Microsoft has announced that its conversational speech recognition system has reached a record 5.1 per cent error rate. Used in its voice-assistant Cortana – as well as Presentation Translator and Microsoft Cognitive Services – researchers from Microsoft Artificial and Research department have put the firm’s recognition system on a par with human transcribers for the first time ever.

Overall, researchers from the latest study reduced the error rate by about 12 per cent compared to last year’s findings by improving the neural net-based acoustic and language models of Microsoft’s speech recognition system. The researchers also enabled its speech recogniser to use entire conversations, which let it adapt its transcriptions to context and predict what words or phrases were likely to come next, the way humans do when talking to one another.

But what does this all mean? Well, for starters it suggests that Microsoft is ready to let Cortana loose on the internet of things market. The prospect of a Cortana-powered smart speaker has long been talked about.

Planning to take a slice of sales away from Hive and Nest, Microsoft has also announced that its GLAS thermostat will be on the market soon. Unlike both Hive and Nest, the GLAS thermostat will come with Microsoft’s voice-assistant Cortana built in. Both other market leaders can be controlled via an external voice assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s home but lack a built-in assistant.

Developed in partnership with Johnson Controls, the swish looking GLAS thermostat was unveiled quietly via YouTube. As well as being voice-controlled, the GLAS also includes a touchscreen (sort of like a tablet) to allow manual controls and check on temperature, air quality readings and calendar schedule.

The GLAS thermostat could signal more joint ventures involving Microsoft’s voice-assistant Cortana. Last year, Microsoft said it would open up access to Cortana in order to bring out more IoT devices at a quicker rate. A smart speaker in conjunction with Kardon is also reportedly in the pipeline as Microsoft looks to step up its IoT presence.

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