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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Computer Taught to 'Converse'

LONDON -- U.S. scientists have taught a computer to follow conversation and respond to the context of dialogue and not just to clearly enunciated words, New Scientist magazine reported last week.

A team of scientists at the University of Rochester in New York state programmed a workstation to respond to voice commands telling it to route imaginary trains between various cities.

The machine could adapt its response to the context of dialogue and make sensible replies even when it "misheard" what someone said, the scientists said.

The computer contains a standard speech recognition program that turns sounds into words. The words are fed into software that analyzes the grammatical structure of the sentences.

The novel part of the system is that it then interprets sentences in the context of the rest of the dialogue. As the conversation proceeds, the computer stores the dialogue in a large buffer and uses it to make a final interpretation.

The scientists said current systems understand only 40 percent of a two-way conversation. Their new software raised recognition to 75 percent of words spoken.