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Brummies to 'teach' call systems

29 April 08 12:05 GMT

People with strong Birmingham accents are being asked to help teach speech recognition systems to understand regional dialects.

Experts found that the technology, used in call centres, often recorded the wrong information after not being able to decipher strong dialects.

Researchers at Birmingham University are now offering to pay Brummie volunteers to record their phone calls.

They hope the research will lead to more accurate systems being developed.

The researchers said that the voice recognition technology, which has been used since the 1980s, had initially been geared towards people speaking English with American accents.

Strongest accents

Professor Martin Russell, who is heading the research, said the technology now generally worked best for people with "standard British southern accents".

He said he hoped that eventually people would be able to talk to the systems over the phone in the same way they would talk to fellow human beings.

"There's lots of anecdotal evidence of accents not working well with voice recognition, with people experiencing certain problems," he said.

"We did our own small study in 2003 when we recorded data in about 30 different regions.

"It was the areas that we would expect had the strongest accents that had the biggest problems - places like Glasgow, Belfast and Birmingham."

He added that if the study in Birmingham was successful, other accents could be researched.

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