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Computers Not Yet Able to ­nderstand Human Speech


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Cornell University professor Lillian Lee discusses the progress in natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning and the challenges that lie ahead.

She notes that machines, including Apple's Siri, are still unable to pass the intelligence test by demonstrating natural language conversation. "Understanding language is really hard, not just because of understanding the structure of language part ... it also involves understanding things about what human beings want," Lee says. Scientists are working to integrate insight from linguistics into statistical models, she notes.

Lee also points out that she has argued for a probabilistic, data approach. NLP will lead to the development of systems that can use human language as input or output, including speech-based interfaces, information retrieval, automatic summarization of news, emails and postings, and automatic translation.

Lee is excited about NLP because it is "interdisciplinary, including fields of computer science, linguistics, psychology, communication, probability and statistics, and information theory."

From Cornell Chronicle 
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