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7 October 2019 7.00 Showroom

Speech technology: a friend not a foe

Stuart Cunningham


Apple's introduction of Siri in 2011 heralded the move of speech technology from the realm of science fiction to the everyday. This shift came about through rapid advances in the field of machine learning, particularly the advent of deep learning. Many of us are now used to speaking to our mobile phones, our televisions, our computers and our smart speakers.

In George Orwell's novel *1984* the Party constantly surveils the citizens of Oceania through telescreens; devices that deliver entertainment and propaganda into the home while simultaneous watching and listening to it's inhabitants. It is becoming apparent that these smart devices are exposing our private lives as never before. In contrast to Orwell's dystopian novel this intrusion is not at the behest of the state, but by the largest companies in the world.


Dr Cunningham is a senior lecturer in Human Communication Sciences and the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare. He has previously work in the department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at Barnsley Hospital, and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield.

He has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Sheffield.

For over 10 years he has worked with colleagues in Sheffield and other institutions and industry to develop innovative speech technology that can be used by people who have speech impairments. These have included devices to control the home environment and software to help people communicate with others.


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