Good Listener

Dimitri Kanevsky is deaf, yet his software helps computers hear and transcribe human speech

Dimitri Kanevsky helps computers understand human speech, a surprising line of work for someone who has been deaf since age 3. The odds are good that if your computer can transcribe a voice or your cell phone knows which number to dial when you tell it to "Call Julie," Kanevsky, 50, is partly responsible. His algorithms are at work inside much of the software that helps translate human speech into the digital language that machines understand.

The holy grail of speech science--making conversation with a computer easier than typing--is still a long way off. Today's software makes lots of mistakes, and...

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