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New Software Searches Audio Files

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Fast-Talk Communications has created software to locate subject matter in an actual audio file by phonetically spelling and entering any term. Technology Review reports:

    Say, for example, that you want to locate the word “Sudetenland” in an audio account of events leading up to World War II. According to Mark Clements, co-founder of the Atlanta-based company, you’d simply “sound out what Sudetenland sounds like. Take the name, ‘Sue,’ the city, ‘Dayton,’ and the word, ‘land,’ and string those together, type it in. That gets resolved into the set of phonemes you’re looking for” (phonemes are units of sound in any language of which all its words are phonetically comprised). The Fast-Talk software finds the string of phonemes that correspond to the letters you enter and guides you to all spoken references to Sudetenland in the audio file. Because this tool bypasses the whole transcription and indexing process, it delivers results fast. According to Clements, the system processes “on the order of 30 hours of material per second.”

    This is important, says Dan Rasmus, an analyst at the market research firm Giga/Forrester, because “voice is one of those untapped resources that companies have.” Jackie Fenn, who follows emerging technologies at Gartner, contends that Fast-Talk’s “main value is in tapping into audio streams that you probably wouldn’t really be able to get access to” otherwise. “It’s not cost-effective to have a human do that,” Fenn says.

    ….Television and radio networks have thousands of hours of programming but no fast way to index and negotiate them. “If you want to find where, say, an NPR news account talked about a panda,” says Clements, “it just takes forever to do that right now.” Another potentially hot use is in call centers. Rasmus says “call centers want to know if anyone had a conversation about X kind of product. Looking at those voice recordings as a means for getting information to somebody at a call center who’s trying to help a client is incredibly time saving, he says. Office workers might ultimately find the technology useful too, Clements says. “Imagine that you have all your voicemail as audio files interleaved with all of your e-mail,” he says. “Our tool would make it so you could manage it.”

Of course you have to have the audio material in a digital file for this to work.

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