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Teach Your Computer Poetry & Slang

Computer programmers are trying to teach computers to "speak" to us, and a better understanding of how we use acoustic cues to stress new information and put old information in the background may help them produce more realistic-sounding speech. How to do this? Teach them poetry! Researcher Michael Wagner studied the rhythm, stress and intonation of speech, and a first step to understanding this complexity is to gain better knowledge of how we decide where to put emphasis. This is where poetry comes into play. Wagner says, "Voice synthesis has become quite impressive in terms of the pronunciation of individual words, but when a computer 'speaks,' whole sentences still sound artificial because of the complicated way we put emphasis on parts of them, depending on context and what we want to get across."

Meanwhile, medical websites provide consumers with more access than ever before to comprehensive health and medical information, but the sites’ usefulness becomes limited if users use language to describe conditions that the site doesn't recognize. A group of researchers have solved this problem by creating a program that enables the sites to "learn" dialect and other medical vernacular, and translate these words into medical terms that the website's software can understand. Computer programmer Hongyuan Zha says, "The language gap problem seems to be the most acute in the medical domain. Providing a solution for this domain will have a high impact on maintaining and improving people's health."

As we move into 2011, we hope that unknowncountry.com won't become a thing of the past, but that could happen if we don't get more support from the readers and listeners who say they love us so much. If YOUR computer could talk, this is what it would say: You can keep us going for less than a latte a WEEK: Less than $12 gets you a 3-month subscription, and if you want to try us out, subscribe for one month for $3.95! So what are you waiting for?

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