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7 February, 2017 - 10:42 By Tony Quested

Apple adviser and speech technology pioneer is Awards speaker

apple, steve young, business awards, business weekly, cambridge

One of Cambridge’s most successful ‘Dontrepreneurs’ – speech technology pioneer Professor Steve Young – is guest speaker at the Business Weekly Awards presentation dinner at Queens’ College on March 22.

Professor Young is ideally qualified to address the new wave of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology that is boosting Cambridge’s reputational capital globally and increasingly attracting corporate investors and potential acquirers.

Steve is Professor of Information Engineering in the Information Engineering Division at Cambridge University. Since Apple’s acquisition last year of Cambridge speech recognition startup VocaliQ, where he was chairman, Prof Young now holds a joint appointment between Cambridge University and Apple Computer where he is a member of the Siri development team.

Prof Young was also behind another Cambridge trailblazer, Entropic – where he was chief technology officer – which was sold to Microsoft in November 1999.

Hermann Hauser’s Amadeus Capital Partners, backed both ventures and is a leading funder of the new kids on Cambridge’s AI/machine learning block.

Steve is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the RSA.

During 2001 through to 2004, he served as chair of the School of Technology and was a member of the university’s general board.

From 2006 to 2009, he served as an elected member of the University Council and from 2009 to 2015 he was the senior pro-vice chancellor responsible for planning and resources.

His main research interests lie in the area of spoken language systems including speech recognition, speech synthesis and dialogue management.  He was editor of Computer Speech and Language from 1993 to 2004 and chair of the IEEE Speech and Language Processing Technical Committee from 2009 to 2011.

Prof Young has won a string of international awards for his work and for broadening the UK’s knowledge base in a critical segment of technology.

Vocal IQ, for example, introduced the world’s first self-learning dialogue API – putting real, natural conversation between people and their devices. Every time an application is used it gets a little bit smarter. Previous conversations are central to it’s learning process – allowing the system to better understand future requests and in turn, react more intelligently.

Apple is believed to have paid somewhere north of $50m and up to $100m for VocalIQ as it sought the IP that would put Siri not just on a footing with but ahead of Evi, the technology created by another Cambridge business, True Knowledge which was acquired by Amazon in 2012 for around $26m.

Entropic had operations in Cambridge UK and Washington DC and was arguably the first real gamechanger in the space. Its advanced voice recognition and speech synthesis toolkits were the industry de facto standard and were used in research laboratories around the world.

Amadeus introduced Silicon Valley investors to the technology and helped management negotiate terms with Microsoft.

Sir Alec Broers, then vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, said at the time: “This is an example of Cambridge University’s outstanding innovative technology being helped on its way to the world marketplace by Amadeus.” Cambridge University was also a shareholder in Entropic. 

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