Anybody who’s been at the wrong end of a automated customer service conversation may understandably have doubts about speech recognition technology. Personally I’ve been frustrated by systems that couldn’t understand something as basic as whether I’d answered “yes” or “no.”

But AT&T says that after working on speech recognition for more than 20 years, it’s come a long way, in improving  accuracy and in developing cool applications.

After years of profiting handsomely from touchscreen technology in the form of Apple Inc’s iPad, maybe voice will be the next hot mobile interface for the operator?

Of course it’s not saying if any of the ideas being cooked up in AT&T labs will actually become full-fledged services. One of its scientist types told me ”I don’t know and I don’t really care” in answer to such a question at a technology showcase today.

But maybe it’s telling that speech recognition was the main theme for the event. Here’s a sample of some demos: