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."
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