Vol. 4 No. 6 – July-August 2006


A Conversation with Jordan Cohen:
Speaking out about speech technology

Jordan Cohen calls himself ’sort of an engineer and sort of a linguist.’ This diverse background has been the foundation for his long history working with speech technology, including almost 30 years with government agencies, with a little time out in the middle to work in IBM’s speech recognition group. Until recently he was the chief technology officer of VoiceSignal, a company that does voice-based user interfaces for mobile devices. VoiceSignal has a significant presence in the cellphone industry, with its software running on between 60 and 100 million cellphones. Cohen has just joined SRI International as a senior scientist. He will be working on government contracts as well as other ventures.

Like a Podcast in the Sea: Mean ol’ LoTech Blues:
Is it just a matter of semantics?

Mache Creeger’s general pessimism about IT’s status quo rests on his perception that HiTech (the character- and tree-saving token for High Technology, somewhat, if not totally, vitiated by this long-winded, unnecessary explanation) is not quite Hi enough. IT relies too much on dreary, evolutionary gradualism rather than on the exciting Kuhnian discontinuities that spell revolution and paradigm shifts. I have no qualms about Creeger’s observation that the marketeers, both commercial and academic (if such categories can be distinguished in these pursy PC times), are fond of paint jobs - coloring the most modest upgrades with claims of major, must-have breakthroughs. This is an ancient and, alas, effective promotional ploy in other trades. I recall one cornflake manufacturer who was forced to confess that what was "new" about its latest product was the bold slogan "NEW" on the package.

by Stan Kelly-Bootle

Social Perception:
Modeling human interaction for the next generation of communication services

Bob manages a team that designs and builds widgets. Life would be sweet, except that Bob’s team is distributed over three sites, located in three different time zones. Bob used to collect lots of frequent flyer miles traveling to attend meetings. Lately, however, business travel has evolved into a humanly degrading, wasteful ordeal. So Bob has invested in a high-bandwidth video communications system to cut down on business travel. Counting direct costs, the system was supposed to pay for itself within three months. There is a problem, however.

by James L. Crowley

The Future of Human-Computer Interaction:
Is an HCI revolution just around the corner?

Personal computing launched with the IBM PC. But popular computing—computing for the masses—launched with the modern WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) interface, which made computers usable by ordinary people. As popular computing has grown, the role of HCI (human-computer interaction) has increased. Most software today is interactive, and code related to the interface is more than half of all code. HCI also has a key role in application design. In a consumer market, a product’s success depends on each user’s experience with it. Unfortunately, great engineering on the back end will be undone by a poor interface, and a good UI can carry a product in spite of weaknesses inside.

by John Canny

The Invisible Assistant:
One lab’s experiment with ubiquitous computing

Ubiquitous computing seeks to place computers everywhere around us—into the very fabric of everyday life1—so that our lives are made better. Whether it is improving our job productivity, our ability to stay connected with family and friends, or our entertainment, the goal is to find ways to put technology to work for us by getting all those computers—large and small, visible and invisible—to work together. Since Mark Weiser presented the ubiquitous computing vision in 1991, we have made significant progress in creating faster, smaller, and lower-power computing devices.We have just barely begun, however, to tackle the problem of how we get these devices to interact effectively with us and with each other.

by Gaetano Borriello

Too Much Information:
Two applications reveal the key challenges in making context-aware computing a reality.

As mobile computing devices and a variety of sensors become ubiquitous, new resources for applications and services - often collectively referred to under the rubric of context-aware computing - are becoming available to designers and developers. In this article, we consider the potential benefits and issues that arise from leveraging context awareness in new communication services that include the convergence of VoIP (voice over IP) and traditional information technology.

by Jim Christensen, Jeremy Sussman, Stephen Levy, William E. Bennett, Tracee Vetting Wolf, Wendy A. Kellogg

Automatic for the People:
Transcript of interview with Rob Gingell, CTO of Cassatt

Probably the single biggest challenge with large scale systems and networks is not building them but rather managing them on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, new classes of systems and network management tools that have the potential to save on labor costs because they automate much of the management process are starting to appear.

Discipline and Focus:
Transcript of interview with Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon

When it comes to managing and deploying large scale systems and networks, discipline and focus matter more than specific technologies. In a conversation with ACM Queuecast host Mike Vizard, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels says the key to success is to have a relentless commitment to a modular computer architecture that makes it possible for the people who build the applications to also be responsible for running and deploying those systems within a common IT framework.

Pointless PKI:
A koder with attitude, KV answers your questions. Miss Manners he ain’t.

We’ve had problems in the past with internal compromises, and management has decided that the only way to protect the information is to encrypt it during transmission.

by George Neville-Neil