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VoiceWeb successfully completes EU research project “Language Resources for Portable Multilingual Spoken Dialogue Systems” (PortDial)

2014-10-07
VoiceWeb successfully completed the EU project “Language Resources for Portable Multilingual Spoken Dialogue Systems” (PortDial) in cooperation with the Technical University of Crete, the University of Bielefeld, the University of Trento and Expert Systems S.p.A. The three academic partners of the consortium are amongst the top academic institutions in Europe that specialize in Speech Technologies research today.  The Technical University of Crete was the coordinator of the project.
The European research project took place from June 2012 to June 2014 under the “EU Seventh Framework Programme”. The PortDial project aimed at creating a platform for automating the implementation, evaluation and improvement of complex domain-specific Natural Language Understanding grammars, as well as accelerating their localization into other languages and their porting to new business domains.  

Mr. Nikos Patsis, CEO of VoiceWeb says: “PortDial has been VoiceWeb’s most exciting and challenging research project in recent years, as well as a breakthrough in the Language Understanding Technologies worldwide. The development of Interactive Spoken Dialogue Systems has seen much progress in the last decades, moving from research prototypes to real-life commercial applications. Still, one major roadblock in existing dialogue systems was that they were not easily and quickly portable to new domains or languages. Up until today, porting spoken dialogue systems to new domains and/or languages was time-consuming and required significant expertise in natural language processing and iterative tuning. Leveraging upon significant recent research progress in the areas of automatic web harvesting, automatic ontology creation, ontology enrichment/domain adaptation, and linking corpora to ontologies, PortDial has managed to reduce the grammar porting time from one language to another by 60% (depending on the source/target language pair)." This capability alone would be enough to classify PortDial as a breakthrough in the Language Understanding industry, but it doesn’t stop there: being able to port a speech-enabled application from one business domain to another (i.e. the Banking domain to the Telecom domain) had always been a challenge on its own, and this is also addressed by the PortDial platform.

Mr. Patsis continued:  “For this success, I should congratulate the team of talented, dedicated and enthusiastic scientists from the 3 Universities and 2 companies that worked on this project for 2 years. We all intend to continue our common research efforts, under the scope of privately funded projects, and will soon be announcing other innovative Intelligent Language Understanding Systems”.

During the PortDial project, multilingual linguistic resources representing different application domains were enhanced, while annotated corpora and ontologies were created. The domains that are covered in PortDial include Banking and Telecom Customer Care, Entertainment, Gaming, and Tourism.

PortDial’s final review took place in Luxembourg, in July 2014 and its results and deliverables were deemed of high quality by the European Commission -Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.
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