A reviewer complained about pronunciation issues yesterday. He said:
"Though I was amazed at how well it said some of my friends’ names (I’m Asian, so it’s not like I have a bunch of John Smiths as friends), saying “nees” instead of “nice” is unacceptable. Thankfully most words are pronounced correctly, but minor mistakes like these are noticeable."
His example got us to thinking about how Friends Aloud handles heteronyms -- words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. The word "read" is the quintessential example, being pronounced differently according to present ("reed") vs. past ("red") tense. The word "nice," meaning pleasant, is pronounced with a long 'i' and "Nice," meaning the city in France, is pronounced with a short 'i'. When it's capitalized, such as at the start of a sentence (or perhaps improperly for emphasis as in "You are So Nice!"), it's difficult for the computer to know which pronunciation to use. So we started testing Friends Aloud on this very word in context, and we discovered that it actually does pretty well in this particular instance, leaving us to wonder just what the exact context of his mispronunciation was. For example, it verbalizes "Nice to see you" properly, even as it reads "We are going to Nice" correctly as well. It uses context to determine the pronunciation of heteronyms. Still, since Friends Aloud is not using full artificial intelligence natural language understanding, but only word context to figure out pronunciations, it is bound to get some things like this wrong. Just like a human reader would, frankly.
The problem here, most likely, was that the single exclamatory sentence "Nice!" was probably used in a post or comment and, not having any context at all surrounding that single word, Friends Aloud chose to pronounce it as the city in France. We will always keep working to teach Friends Aloud be less high-brow and to resolve such conflicts in favor of modern-day slang. In the meantime, rest assured that it does get at least most of this complicated language we call English correct, even when you use texting-style abbreviations.
From an article in the New York Times, and why Friends Aloud is so important ...
It’s easy to become complacent. Maybe you’re a good driver, and you’ve gotten away with such actions for years. Maybe you managed to avert a near-accident when your attention returned to the road in the nick of time. But one of these days, your luck may run out and you, or someone you hit, could be maimed for life or dead.
“Driving while distracted is roughly equivalent to driving drunk,” Dr. Amy N. Ship, an internist at Harvard Medical School, wrote last year in a commentary in The New England Journal of Medicine
. “Any activity that distracts a driver visually or cognitively increases the risk of an accident. None of them is safe.”
Following widespread publicity about the hazards of distracted driving, including a Pulitzer-prize winning series in this newspaper
, medical groups are working hard to make patients more aware of the problem. The most recent effort was started last week by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, whose “Decide to Drive” campaign calls attention to the increasing number of distractions engaged in by multitasking drivers and the resulting toll on people’s lives.
“We take care of a lot of people injured in car accidents, and distracted driving is a substantial contributor to these accidents,” Dr. Daniel Berry, president of the academy, said in an interview. “If we could get rid of this part of our practice, it would be a great service to the people we care for.”
Orthopedists would do very well, thank you, without the business generated by the 307,369 crashes that have occurred so far this year, according to estimates from the National Safety Council, involving drivers talking on cellphones or texting.
Last year Aaron Brookens of Beloit, Wis., then 19, was driving home at 75 miles an hour after spending a weekend with his girlfriend when he decided to send her a text message — and wound up pinned under a semi. The toll: two broken femurs, a broken kneecap and ankle, nerve damage to both legs, and a lacerated spleen, kidney and liver.
Numerous operations and a lengthy rehab later, Mr. Brookens knows he’s lucky to be alive. “No one thinks it will happen to them,” he said on Wednesday at a news conference convened by the orthopedists. He now realizes that “deciding to drive” is always the best option, and he wants others to learn from his mistake.
Wow! Friends Aloud continues to climb the charts, ending yesterday at #74 in its category, bringing it into the top 3% of Social Networking apps. We believe that this happened because 1) we lowered the price to $2.99 in a temporary sale, and 2) quite a few new great reviews and announcements appeared in various news media around the web, including MacWorld, Geeky Gadgets, 148apps, and Appolicious. We are grateful that this first app has been so well-received, and hope to quickly follow it up with a number of voice-enabled apps that we now have under active development. These include Tweets Aloud, Emails Aloud, Messages Aloud (for Facebook messages), Reader Aloud (items starred in Google Reader), Later Aloud (items you save via InstaPaper and Read It Later), and Texts Aloud. So stay tuned for more apps from VoiZapp that keep you in touch with the never-ending flow of information through your digital world, even as your eyes are otherwise occupied.
After its quick acceptance by the App Store and official launch on Monday, Friends Aloud Pro has stayed in the top 10% of iPhone apps in its category -- Social Networking -- for the past week. So far, reviews and user responses have been uniformly positive. As word gets out, we hope to crack the top 25, since it really is the best way for any Facebook user to keep in touch with their friends anytime, anywhere. Thanks to everyone for your support of our first ever iOS app efforts! If you haven't tried it yet, please at least check out the free Friends Aloud Lite and see how liberating it can be to keep up with your friends without being tied to a computer screen!