According to research in Australia, far more people would rather use a speech recognition call center as opposed to centers manned by people with a different accent than a native Australian. Labor is one of the biggest costs in manning a call center, particularly one that operates 24/7; it’s a problem that can be addressed with some of the new voice recognition programs on the market.

Although they are expensive, it is easy to calculate the point at which the costs of a live call center overtake the costs of implementing voice recognition. As the prices keep dropping, many companies may take on these types of systems rather than outsourcing their call center operations offshore. There are still plenty of people who would rather talk to a person than a computer, but as speech recognition improves, these people may change their tunes as well.

Call centers put accent on speech recognition (CNET)

Speech recognition is also showing up in many other places. A startup company called Vlingo has released a beta of its software, which allows users to use any words they want (rather than a predefined set of keywords) in order to use their phones to search the Web. VoiceSignal, another company specializing in speech recognition, has announced that it is very close to releasing software that would allow iPhone users to talk to their new gadget. IBM has also teamed with an Indian software company to release technology that recognizes Hindi.

IBM’s Desktop Hindi Speech Recognition technology understands and transcribes human speech with little use of keyboards, thereby helping people unfamiliar with computers or the Hindi language. Also as there are various keyboards in use for Indian languages, speech recognition eliminates the need to learn mapping of different keyboards.

Startup Rolls out Speech Recognition Beta for Mobile Phones (PC World)

iPhone Speech Recognition Demo from VoiceSignal (Gizmodo)

IBM, C-DAC Partner to Promote Hindi (Techtree)

All of this leads to the conclusion that speech recognition — a technology that has been on the verge of a major breakthrough for years — may finally be coming out of the shadows. My new tablet shipped with Vista, which has some very nice voice recognition features. I am not ready to say that I could transcribe an entire document with speech recognition, but with the right equipment, I could easily compose a first draft without the use of a keyboard.

What applications would you like to see speech enabled? Will speech recognition make you more or less efficient? Are you likely to use some of the new voice tools that are available, or do you prefer being a “keyboard warrior?”