Artificial intelligence library with voice samples in Singaporean English to launch next year

SINGAPORE - Imagine digital voice assistants that are able to understand or correctly pronounce terms such as "nasi lemak", "Ang Mo Kio" or "Tampines".

Such capability will not be limited to Google Assistant, which will be made available in Singaporean English when the Pixel 2 XL smartphone goes on sale in two weeks.

To help speed up the development of similar speech-enabled applications for daily local use, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will create an artificial intelligence (AI) library containing the national speech corpus in English.

AI is one of the four frontier areas that will create new jobs for Singaporeans highlighted in the infocomm media Industry Transformation Map (ITM), announced on Friday (Nov 3). The other areas are cyber security, Internet of Things and immersive media.

"At first glance, AI may sound high-brow or obscure to most companies. This is not the case. AI is already present in our daily lives, and companies both big and small can leverage existing AI solutions to improve your business offering," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

The speech corpus in local accents is slated for launch in the third quarter of next year. It is modelled after similar ones in Japan, Finland and the Netherlands.

The Straits Times understands that IMDA will fund the collection of local voice samples for the library.

One advantage of such a corpus is that start-ups need not collect voice data themselves, or use foreign speech corpora which are not suited for local use.

Through these efforts, it is hoped that local companies can grab a slice of the burgeoning global speech and voice recognition market, tipped to be worth US$18.3 billion (S$25 billion) by 2023.

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