Brno - Ed, a hypothetical pensioner in Texas, US, wants an insurance for his car, but the computer which handles his call redirects him to the department of household animals.
That's because Ed referred to his Cadillac as "cad", and the computer in the call center understood "cat".
"It is very difficult for a machine to recognize the word cat," said Shakti Rath, a 29-year old professor from the Indian Technological Institute in Madras, explaining why he had decided to spend the next two years working on a project in Brno, Czech Republic, aimed at teaching computers to understand what is Ed really asking for.
The presence of an expert from India, a global IT hotbed, in Brno's University of Technology shows that the second largest city of the country is becoming a Czech Silicon Valley, a symbol of knowledge economy in the Czech Republic.
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Today, even the best software is able to recognize the spoken word from no more than 70 percent. As the example with Ed shows, this seriously inhibits a more massive commercial usage of this software.
Shakti Rath and his colleagues from Brno want to improve this rate by 3 percent in the following two years.
"It does not seem much, but it will save a lot of time and money to a lot of people," said Jan Černocký, a head of the department of computer graphic and multimedia at the University of Technology in Brno.
The project called BUT [email protected] focuses on extracting information from the common spoken word - identifying the meaning of keywords, the language, and the speaker. It is financed not only by the Czech Industry Ministry but also US Defense Ministry's agencies DARPA and IARPA, which tells something about the diverse ways in which this software can be used.
Clients from the bank sector and airport operators are interested in the results of the research too.
Shakti Rath is the youngest from the 26 expert researchers attracted to Brno by a program called SoMoPro, financed by the South Moravia Region and EU. Thirteen of them is already working in Brno, the rest is coming.
The project's director Miloš Šifalda says that since 2009 when it was launched, it has hosted two scientists from the World's top 10 universities, and a half of the 26 scientists is from the top 100 universities.
The world's top brains are now coming to Brno with business plans of international importance. According to the conditions of SoMoPro, these projects have to create employment in the region.
One of the elite scientists attracted by SoMoPro is a Czech Kamil Parouch, who has spent 14 years in the USA where he get a PhD in the University of Columbia for an investigation of inhibitors that kill cancer cells.
Another project focuses on designing a biological replacement of the human heart.
Brno and the South Moravian Region are already engaged in a type of economy others only speak about. "The regional innovative strategy brought us between 50 most innovative regions in Europe," said Michal Hašek, the governor of the South Moravian Region, when he was officially starting the second round of the SoMoPro program last week.