ASRNews, April 98
Belgian Company's TTS Introduced in US

Babel Technologies SA (Mons, Belgium) is a Belgian speech company, positioning itself as a "technology provider" rather than a developer of end-user applications. At CT Expo, the Belgian company made its presence known stateside with the presentation of its US English text-to-speech product. It was released at the end of February. Vincent Fontaine, Babel Technologies CEO, told ASRNews that the company is a spin-off of the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons "where 25 researchers have been working exclusively on the development of new algorithms for speech processing for more than 15 years."

  Babel is working to develop products in speech synthesis, speech recognition, speech and music coding and optical character recognition. Its MBROLA (MultiBand Resynthesis OverLap Add) speech synthesis engine is the basis of the US English text-to-speech offering. MBROLA uses a time-domain diphone concatenation algorithm, and a coding scheme that compresses language databases by a factor of seven. This is significant for embedded systems as the size of the raw speech databases range from 412 NIB depending on the language. MBROLA is available in English, German, French, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, and Romanian. In 1996, Babel received the European Information Technology Prize for MBROLA. A demonstration of Babel's text-to-speech is available at its web site: www.babeltech.com, or at +32 65 37 41 77.

  Three of Babel's MBROLA customers include Telia AB, (Solna, Sweden), Fluency Speech Technology (Utrecht, The Netherlands), and MicroPower (Brazil). Telia is the international telecommunications corporation owned by the Swedish government, which will use the MBROLA synthesizer to replace the synthesizer used in its InfoVox service. Fluency Speech Technology is using the engine to develop speech synthesis and text-to-speech software for Dutch, including an 80,000 word Dutch text-to-speech product in final development, and a prosody-to-speech converter which runs on top of MBROLA and is used by a Dutch dictionary publisher to create talking dictionaries. MicroPower is one of the five biggest multimedia publishers in Brazil. MicroPower offers DeltaTalk, the first Brazilian Portuguese text-to-speech product, and VirtualLab, educational software to teach Portuguese.

  Babel's ASR technology is employed in two product offerings which the company will OEM: BabelAttendant, a software-only auto attendant product that features keyword spotting; and a voice-activated dialing application, BabelDial. BabelAttendant's speaker-independent speech recognition capability uses a hybrid HMM/neural network technology. BabelDial is available in C language for UNIX, and is currently ported to Windows 95/NT platforms. "The next in development," said Fontaine, "is the adaptation of the software for the telephony boards like Dialogic, Natural MicroSystems, Aculab, and so forth". BaBelDial will be offered in two versions, basic and enhanced or Pro, with and without neural networking technology.

  Kate Cogswell Carr

Last updated December 17, 1999, send comments to dutoit@tcts.fpms.ac.be