Microsoft recognizes speech software bug
Microsoft bashers used a failed product demonstration Thursday at the company’s annual Financial Analyst Meeting as an easy excuse to mock the world’s largest software company. But the response from within Microsoft was anything but that of a corporate monolith. First one developer, then another owned up to the problem in online postings on the company’s developers’ blog. They described in detail what Microsoft already had done to fix the issue. Over the weekend, Rob Chambers, a member of Microsoft’s speech recognition team, posted a tentative explanation of what he thought might have gone wrong. He provided a more definitive technical answer Monday that pinned the problem on audio gain issue called “clipping.” “Have you ever heard a car drive by that had the stereo blasting away, and the audio sounded absolutely horrible?” he writes. “Microphones and sound cards can have similar problems trying to convert the analog signal from the microphone element into a digital signal for use by software on the PC.” Chambers said the glitch was well understood by the team. The demo had worked perfectly well in practice, but because the bug is intermittent, it only popped up during the main event. “Rest assured that we have the issue under control here in Redmond, and when Vista ships later this year, this audio gain issue will be a thing of the past,” he said. Larry Osterman, a 22-year Microsoft veteran who is part of the audio team owned up to being slow to detect the software bug when it first was detected about a month ago. “Mea Culpa,” he writes in a blog post entitled “Wait, that was my bug? Ouch!” #### Callers to the main switchboard at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters are treated to a sample of speech recognition technology in practice. “Thank you for calling Microsoft,” the automated voice response system tells outside callers. “To reach a specific person, just tell me their name at anytime,” the recorded woman’s voice intimates. Listen to a sample of when a caller asks to speak with Bill.