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"Making The Internet Easily Accessible To Everyone"
The Vision Behind InternetSpeech

Most people would agree that the Internet is a great tool that's exponentially growing in popularity and functionality. It has a significant limitation, however: users generally need a computer to go "on-line."

Dr. Emdad Khan, president and CEO of InternetSpeech, envisioned a product that would allow any person to easily access the Internet from a simple, ubiquitous appliance -- an ordinary phone and using the most natural user interface, one's own voice. This vision spawned netECHO®, a product that lets users talk to any Web site, listen to e-mail, and buy on-line without a computer; thus bridging the Digital Divide.

Dr. Khan's dream became reality thanks to his unique engineering, computer science and business development expertise. He came to the United States from Bangladesh in 1981 and quickly earned a master's in Electrical Engineering. He started working for large semiconductor companies, including Intel and National, then decided to continue his education by enrolling part-time in Stanford's master's program on Engineering Management. It was there that the entreprenueur in Dr. Khan was awakened.

As part of a course, he had to develop a business concept. Khan wanted to focus on something he could actually implement, so he launched a magazine providing information to Bengali people and others living abroad. The magazine was short-lived, but it sparked an interest in business, as well as a passion for providing information and ideas worldwide.

He continued work for private companies, and developed an interest in artificial intelligence. For new products to make a difference in people's lives, he believed they'd have to include such intelligence, and he put this belief to work in a chip for National that combines neural networks and fuzzy logic. The chip is now being used in "smart" washing machines that survey a load of laundry and automatically decide how much soap to put in, what temperature is required, and what wash cycle is best.

The chip was fun, but Khan still felt the audience reached by home appliances was too small. And, in the back of his mind, he was still thinking about ways to distribute information to the masses.

That's when the idea for netECHO® emerged. Dr. Khan went back to school to earn a PhD in computer science, completing the set of skills he'd need to begin implementing his revolutionary idea of Internet access via phone.

netECHO® builds on Dr.Khan's experience with neural networks and fuzzy logic by incorporating an "intelligent agent" he invented which helps users get to the specific Web page information they desire. Users utter a command, and speech recognition technology tells netECHO's intelligent agent to go get the information. The agent then extracts the raw information from the Web site, eliminating superflous ads, banners and graphics. It then uses text-to-speech technology to read the requested information out loud.

As we know visual web pages were designed with visual access in mind. Hence, the information is displayed in a manner that is attractive to our eyes but not to our ears. In many cases, there might be too much raw information. Thus, just extracting raw information may not be adequate. Hence, netECHO's intelligent agent is equipped with a "rendering" engine that renders contents from today's websites into short, precise, meaningful, easily navigable and pleasant to listen to audio. In a sense, this unique intelligent agent acts as a bridge between speech recognition/text-to-speech technologies and the Internet, providing people with the information they desire in audio format.


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