iFlytek, the Chinese speech-recognition technology developer held a grand news conference in Beijing’s China National Convention Center yesterday announcing its latest “Voice Cloud” effort and “iflytek YuDian”, or the so called China’s Siri.

Founded in late 1999, the China southern Anhui province-based company has been devoting to the progressing of speech-recognition related technology for nearly 12 years. Liu Qingfeng, president of iFlytek said at the conference that the company’s speech-recognition technology comes with an accuracy rate of more than 90% in terms of Mandarin Chinese. And for those expats who once took Chinese class or test, you should’ve knew how easy it is to fail in listening test since so many words with totally different meaning sound so identical to each other. For example, 石狮 (shishi, stone lion) sounds very similar to 十四 (shisi, which means fourteen). Just as BusinessWeek puts it, “There are only 400 monosyllabic sounds in Mandarin, which are differentiated by tone.”And there’re tens of thousands of words in Chinese, you do the math.

So an accuracy rate of 90% is indeed impressive and the company said that it will continue to improve it.

Liu also revealed that as of now the company has amassed a 3rd party developer army of more than 3,100 to build all kinds of apps upon its Voice Cloud initiative. For example, Dianping, the Shanghai-based social rating site leveraged on the speech-recognition ability to help people talk to their phone to find restaurants near by. No awkward mobile phone typing in anymore.

iFlytek has a vision that in the future, every mobile will be able to listen to and speak human language, so does every car/home appliance/toy etc. It believes that human life will be greatly changed by intelligent speech-interaction technologies.

Its iFlytek Yudian, also being deemed as Chinese Siri, is evolving into that direction. Have it installed on your Android or iPhone, then you can talk to the phone to have something done for you effortlessly. For example, you can tell the phone to “text Ben, let’s have dinner tomorrow night 8”, it will translate your speech to texts and ask for your confirmation before sending out. Ask Yudian what’s the weather like in Beijing, it will connect to the Internet to search the information for you.

Ever since Apple’s deubt of Siri at its iPhone 4S launch event, a lot of buzz have been generated around Siri focusing on its implication in human-computer interaction. To many, Siri is the future, it will lead us into a more intelligent era of speech-interaction.

However, Siri closed its door to outsiders while iFlytek cleverly tore down the wall to encourage innovations based on it. It’s a sure thing that we’ll see more interesting apps that leveraged on the company’s voice cloud to make people’s life better or simply free people from daily chores.

Ben Jiang

Listener of startups, writer on tech. Maker of things, dreamer by choice.

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