The final figures show that LangTech was attended
by some 330 representatives from over 30 countries and across
five continents. The actual programme featured presentations from
over 70 companies from 20 nations. Most importantly, nearly two-thirds
of LangTech attendees came from industry or commercial concerns.
We are naturally delighted with this result, particularly the
level of geographic diversity and support from industry. These
demographics naturally led to a balanced and comprehensive account
of issues, business models and future opportunities for the speech
and language technologies sector across the globe.
of some of the plenary sessions is here on this page. For those who attended LangTech, speaker's
presentations are available online here.
Participants should have received a separate email by now, informing
of the login and password to access this information.
At the end of the conference, Joseph
Mariani, Director of the ICT Department - French Ministry of Research
and New Technologies, announced that LangTech 2003 will
be held in Paris, France next autumn. Send all comments, suggestions
and requests regarding next year's conference to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks for all your support in helping
LangTech become 'The New European Language Technology Forum'. We hope to see you in Paris for LangTech 2003!
Professor Hans Uszkoreit,
LangTech Programme Chair, opened the conference by
pointing out that the key current challenge to the speech and
language technology sector was not so much bringing research concepts
to market but dealing with the depressed business climate. There
is a fairly advanced capacity to absorb innovation on the demand
side, and despite current pessimism, the market is set to rebound
Other key strategic points to emerge from the LangTech
A 'user centric' drive toward 'natural'
communication and interfaces is widely regarded as the way
forward. The EC FP6 programme appears to be addressing this
explicitly in its 'multimodal' roadmap, and many of the SME
'pitches' at the event had this concept at the centre of their
Many voice and multilinguality-based technologies
are now mature. As more and more applications are reaching
the market, this process is set to gather greater momentum.
However, several groups called for more EC support for translation
A key catalyst for market penetration is
visibility at 'board level'. Marketing of language technologies
must incorporate a greater effort to reach corporate decision-makers.
Business consultants may emerge as an important 'champion' for
There are usually almost no successful generic
solutions in language technology - solutions have to be customised
to a specific company, sector, task etc.
Language technology currently represents
around 2% of the value added to software products.
Bill Dolan , Head of Natural
Language Processing at Microsoft,
reminded the audience that deployable language technologies
have been expected 'in 5 years time' right from the beginning of
machine translation (MT) in the 1950s. Yet we still, have not
developed a feasible commercial model for rolling out the technologies
to the mass market.
Whilst Natural Language Processing smarts are gradually being integrated
into consumer software, Dolan stressed that current user interfaces
are far too clumsy: going forward, computers must now adapt to
users rather than the opposite model that has driven the market.
Microsoft is deploying NLP in the form of behind-the-scenes grammar
checkers, smart tags and other morphological analysers in consumer
He also showed how high quality MT tools can learn 'automatically'
from available bilingual texts in a specific domain, claiming that
a single general purpose MT solution is probably not feasible.
We are more likely to see thousands of specialised MT engines distributed
over the web.
Professor Wolfgang Wahlster
from the German research centre DFKI, focused on the
use of language technologies in the mobile internet environment,
maintaining that the natural interface will indeed be multimodal.
Mobile based UTMS and 3G devices will eventually provide access
to all communication messages, information, entertainment and web
based content, creating significant opportunities for the language
technology sector. After introducing the revolutionary transportable
interface concept, Smartkom, Professor Wahlster concluded by stressing
that multimodal interfaces increase the robustness of user interaction
and lead to more intuitive and efficient dialogues.
This theme was further supported by Giovanni
Varile, from the IST Intelligent Interfaces & Surfaces Unit.
Through the IST programme, the EC has a vision of building a knowledge
society for all with user-focused interfaces in the foreground. This
is evidenced in a research budget of over 3,600 million euro for Knowledge
and Interface Technologies within the IST Framework. Mr Varile identified
the development of semantic-based and context-aware knowledge systems
together with natural and adaptive multimodal interfaces as key
Guests at the LangTech evening reception on Thursday
26th September were addressed by Mr Paul
Hector, representing the Information Society Division of UNESCO.
Mr Hector stressed UNESCO's dedication to support measures that
help preserve the right of individuals to participate in the information
age through their native language.
UNESCO is particularly concerned about the pace at which minority
languages are disappearing. With this in mind, Mr Hector outlined
B@bel, which seeks through policy, awareness raising and the
development of software applications and tools to foster the development
of information content and promote equitable access within a
Language Technology Innovation
The LangTech programme featured a dedicated venture capital
session, with a panel of four venture capitalists discussing
some of their recent deals and their different approach to evaluating
and selecting ventures for funding. Again it was stressed that the
development of a natural user interface was a key interest area.
Marcus Jochim from Deutsche Telekom VC unit, T-Venture,
pointed to the comparatively low level of investment intensity and
investor confidence in the current market, but suggested strong
future potential for voice based services. Jochim indicated some
of the key success criteria for technology VC propositions as: quality
of management, status of marketplace, 'uniqueness' of technology,
a flexible and open architecture, valuable business model, attractive
expected ROI and potential synergies with the VC firm.
'Elevator Pitch' Competition
During the two days of LangTech, 23 SME companies
from across the globe gave five minute 'elevator pitch' presentations
of their corporate project with a view to attracting venture capital
interest, and of course, competing for the LangTech prize!
Voted by an international jury, prizes worth a
total of 3,000 euro were awarded to the three best presentations.
The jury - comprising technology and investment know-how - paid
particular attention to the overall impact, degree of innovation
/ R&D; capabilities of the organisation, relevance of market
scenario (size, development, competitors), company development potential
(human resources), and appropriateness of investment required. With
a large number of high-quality submissions, judging these entries
proved to be challenging. But we are pleased to announce the following
1st Prize (1,500 euro):
Language and Computing,
2nd Prize (1,000 euro): Natural
Speech Communication, Israel
3rd Prize (500 euro): The Language
Technology Centre, UK
Our congratulations go to these parties, and
our thanks to all the SMEs for their presentations.
The success of LangTech 2002 is by no means an accident and we
would like to thank all those responsible for contributing to the
event. Special thanks go to the Investitions Bank Berlin (IBB)
for their Platinum Sponsorship and the local organisation team
at VDI VDE-IT. Other supporting partners include EUROMAP Language
Technologies, the German National Competence Center for Language
Technology, DFKI - the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence,
the European Language and Speech Network (ELSNET) and ELRA - the
European Language Resources Association.
We would also like to thank all the LangTech
exhibitors: Aculab, BaBel Technologies, Connexor, DIME
Technologies, DFKI, ESTeam, Euromap Language Technologies, GALA,
Global Words, Morphologic, Natlanco, Navigo Systems, Ontotext, Scansoft,
SENECA, Sympalog, TC-STAR, University of Sheffield - GATE, VoiceObjects
and of course the various speakers, presenters and panellists who
contributed to the programme.