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CMU Sphinx Open Sourced 144

Posted by emmett
from the get-it-while-you-can dept.
Mandrake wrote in: "CMU Sphinx (the speech recognition software being developed at CMU being funded by DARPA and NSF for the last 15 years) has gone open source and is up for download on SourceForge. You can check out the announcement, go to the home page at CMU, or download the code for yourself. It should build out-of-box on several platforms, linux, freebsd, sun4m, etc. - but work is still needed. Help with documentation would be greatly appreciated, too. It's important that people grab this stuff ASAP, too, just in case some people decide to go after it for potential patent violations (we all know how much people love the patent system)."
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CMU Sphinx Open Sourced

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    law is supposed to be derived from morality, Not the other way around.

    There are cases where a law is passed that does not help(and sometimes hurts) the public.

    Bad laws have been passed for:
    purposeful racial discrimination
    purposeful religious intolerance
    Corporate greed to protect/extend exclusive rights to information.


    You have two for such laws:
    1) Beg the government to change the law. To do this, you will often need more money and power than whoever backed the law.
    2) Ignore the law, knowing that:
    It is unenforcible.
    and/or
    If taken to a higher court, the law will be struck down.(Assuming that judges are less bribed than congress)

    For the specific issue at hand, 2 applies.
    As we have seen with mp3 and as we will see with CSS, It is very dificult to enforce a software patent when open source implementations exist, as there is really no-one to sue, except the whole internet, which is not feasible(As CCA will see).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    AFAICS this is an old version they have stopped development on... plus without the trainer being open source its not even a good platform for further development IMO.

    Or am I missing something?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, I'm going to rehash some things from previous discussions here:

    1. Computer science/coding is ill suited for patenting, because many "best practices", common practices, and obvious things simply aren't documented. The culture of programming is very much an oral tradition, learned by watching others and asking questions of them.

    2. In the U.S., patent examiners have an incentive to not challenge patent applications - the applicant can haul them into court to explain why they denied the patent, but they don't have to explain why they approved it. Not to mention most examiners aren't involved/knowledgeable enough about computer science in the first place.

    3. Patents these days are being used as another form of cash that is being traded around by companies - ie, Motorola and AMD cross-licencing patents, various companies trading patents for other incentives, etc. If you don't have patents, you don't have anything to trade for/with (okay, not a software example, but the principle still holds).

    4. Challenging existing patents in court can get expensive, not something the average Joe can do. Some companies can get away with threatening to enforce patents, simply because whoever is "violating" the patent can't afford to fight it.

    And there are countless examples of bad software patents, too numerous to mention, that effectively stifle innovation, contrary to the original intent of patents.

    If you all remember the /. interview with the patent attorneys, you'll remember that it's actually advisable not to look up patents: if you get taken to court over a patent violation, you'll get a lesser penalty if you didn't know you were violating a patent than if you did know. Which creates sort of a catch-22 - develop a product, if it's violating a patent, you'll never know unless you get sued, at which point all your efforts have been wasted.

    Much of this has been stated previously by RMS and/or ESR and various other people. A good resource for this is the FSF [fsf.org].

  • You say "stealing someone's IP", like "owning information" is some god given right.

    The whole Idea of IP was created by our founding fathers to promote inovation and education in science, medicine, and art by the government have exclusive use of ownership for a limited period of time.

    Great idea at first, but today IP law has problems:
    1) Copyright law is extended via corporate politics such that the rights are seemingly infinite.
    2) 80+ year copyrights are absurd for software that is obolsete in 5 years. As opposed to books and music, the public gains nothing in 80 years.
    3) The original intent of IP fails with the new open software paradigm. A patent slows or even stops inovation in open software development.

    Imagine if the following were patented(and strictly enforced)
    HTTP/URL
    The Internet
    IBM PC

    Imagine if you had to pay royalties on:
    Bach, Mozart...
    Bible
    e=mc^2...
    DNA,
    Human Anatomy...
    Discovered celestial bodies

    Education costs would be enormous, there would be no world wide network, you couldn't write about space, Christianity would bairly exist, ...

    Before I stop rambling, think about Applying libertarianism to Information.
    I no purist when it comes to Government control, but I will say that we need to move more towards a more Libertarian view. Controlling information is a form of government interference, and while I will say that the Government should control the use of information some, todays system is often more harm than good.
  • Actually, GNOME has a HAL applet already :-)
  • The statement reads something to the effect of, "grab it while you can, in case someone decides to go after it for patent violations."

    Did you know that nearly every coding technique is patented now? I wouldn't be surprised, quite frankly, if loops were patented, especially loops with conditional breaks. If this were to happen, would you attempt to write software without control code; honor the patent's owner, or would you act otherwise? BTW, this is a hypothetical situation.

    What about the Amazon situation? Their controversial patent involves the storing of credit cards for future use on an e-commerce website. It's just about that vague. If you run a business online and decide, hey, I'd like to just store credit card numbers for my customers' convenience, that's a violation. I'm sure the same is true of cookies, even though that's client side (after all, you're *storing* the credit card info.)

    So, I'm sure that the original author didn't mean for folks to just steal legitimately patented ideas. It's more a sad commentary on the state of software development, where writing a piece of code, and the desire to remain 100% legal, would require a patent search (even for a non-profit GPL project.)

    Just my $0.02.
  • by Enahs (1606)
    ViaVoice for Linux...available now. BOOYA!
  • Glad to see I'm not the *only* one who knows what the "code" link is a link to...
  • I have yet come across any voice recognition technology that even comes close to understanding my accent. Hell, English people have difficulty with a Glaswegian accent. I find i havveee ttooooo sppeeeeekkk veeerrryy slooowwllyy to be understood consistently.

  • I've been waiting a long time for something like this!
    Thanks, oznoid &co. - now i'm off to start a language model for Lojban [lojban.org]!

  • Jefferson would have cheered the overthrow of a corrupt or abusive government. What we have here is not even remotely close to fitting that description. The Declarations words are not to be taken lightly; just because you don't *like* the system does not mean it needs to be overthrown.

    No, but we are entering the Information Age. Information is becoming increasingly important - and so too is the right to access it. I also firmly believe in the right of the people to change it's government whenever they are unhappy with it - for any reason, no matter how trivial. Here myself and Jefferson part ways. There is no "mostly" democratic, for me it's an all-or-nothing proposition, in the same way that you can't have "mostly" free speech. Information is power. The power belongs in the hands of the people - NOT the various economic entities that make up this country. If the people want to abolish IP and patents, it should be expressly allowed.

    People pirate MP3s, not because they feel that IP should be dissolved, but because they have little or no respect for existing laws.

    So all people who pirate mp3s are anarchists? Seems rather broad there. Tell me, have you ever found yourself speeding down the freeway? Weren't you violating the law? Didn't you feel any remorse? Any fool can make a law, and any fool will mind it. I reserve the right to protest and/or disregard any law if it disagrees with my own moral compass. I also accept the responsiblity of my actions. If I am pulled over and given a ticket, I will pay it. That was my cost for violating the law.

    Going alittle further into this, and at the risk of losing sight of the original topic, I would also point out that IP violations seem to have far worse fines than even raping somebody - is this reasonable? Should we not clamor for reasonable punishment for violations of the law? This is another problem I have with so-called "intellectual property" rights - since when was your computer somebody else's property? What right do they have to break into your home, and take your computer? Why can't they simply remove the offending content (or backup your harddrive and return your data immediately)? This totalitarian form of punishment is hardly justifiable - and is not in line with this society's views on what is right and wrong. The law should follow the accepted beliefs and practices of it's citizens, not the other way around.

  • Does you mind if any company in the world can get their hands on your personal information?

    They already have access to where I live, what food I eat, how much money I spend, where I shop, what kinds of computer peripherals I typically purchase, my income... But no, it doesn't bother me. Why? Because I have access to theirs too. It's the great equalizer: they won't do un to me because they know I'll do un to them. Information is knowledge. Knowledge is power. The people have the power. We all do, now. The principles of democracy have begun to spread farther and faster than we had intended.. and now we're afraid.

    demand the right to control who has access to my information, and how they can use it. This is about privacy as much as anything else. What's the difference between my private information and my source code? I think it's less clear now that we are in such a bomming Information Age.

    Actually, it's pretty clear: our society seems intent on giving away it's privacy in exchange for $5 gift certificates and chances to win prizes. You know, you may already be a winner.

    Now does that seem Totalitarian to you?

    No.

  • I would like to have seen what the discussion would have been like if you hadn't included the patent comment in your submission.

    The percentage of comments crapping on about patents, is way higher than the actually interesting comments about speach recognition.
  • Facts:
    1. The US Patent Office is inundated with patents that it doesn't have the expertise to judge.
    2. Mathematical formulas ARE NOT patentable. This is the law.
    3. The only way to legally challenge these patents would require a ton of money.

    Conclusion?
    Civil disobedience is justified in correcting the restrictions on our freedom to think imposed by incorrect patents.

    All this overly broad patenting & trade secrets makes me feel like we are going back to the times of guilds, where you would get jailed for sharing secrets of the trade.

  • there's a better idea out there for how to wrap the library. there's a project called "free speech" (you can get it on freshmeat) that is implementing it as a daemon that apps can connect to when they want speech input.
  • Juries can in a way say that the law is unjust or whatever. It's called nullification, I think the way it works is that the jury just returns a verdict of "not guilty" even though they know he's guilty. Since in the US once you are found not guilty you cannot be tried again, you are free even though you did break said law.
  • No offense, but you sound like a warez kiddie trying to justify your thefts, railing against bogeymen like corporate greed and those corrupt politicians.

    First, to both you and the original person who replied to me, I never said that ethics and/or morality are the same thing as legality. It would've been redundant of me if I thought that way. They're two separate things, and stealing someone's IP is a breach of both.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • That's cool, and I have no reason at all to doubt you, but do you see why I might've thought otherwise when the article submission reads, "It's important that people grab this stuff ASAP, too, just in case some people decide to go after it for potential patent violations"?

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • I just installed Sphinx II and tried the sphinx2-demo program. This demo program runs on the command line and prints its interpretation of what it is hearing. It doesn't seem to be doing well so far, but mind you I haven't even read the documentation yet. I may not have it setup correctly

    I'm currently using Sphinx III for work and it works fine with preconditions:

    • The microphone quality is high.
    • You have a foam "wind guard" for the mic (none of that wooshing you hear when you breah on it).
    • You stay close to the training data.

    YMMV.

  • Algorithms are math and math is not patentable.

    Algorithms are machines -- processes built of software -- and machines *are* patentable.

    What if someone developed a non-algorithmic process -- that was still math-based -- to do something? (For example, some process where randomness was an integral part of the patent claim.) Using your statement above, its patentability is undecidable. Therefore, your statement is incomplete. Go read Roger Penrose.

    Not all of math is obvious. One of the clear elements of patentability is non-obviousness. For example, look at Andrew Weil's use of the Taniyama Conjecture about elliptic curves to solve Fermat's Last Theorem. *That* was certainly not obvious. I believe that, if he had wanted to, he could have written a program based on his work and gotten a patent on it.

    I agree with you that patent examiners in general don't know enough about software to make adequately well-informed decisions about the patentability of software, but that's a meatware failure, not an indictment of the entire system of software patents. If they *did* know enough about software, most software patents would *not* be granted and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    As much as "information wants to be free", "information-organizers want to get paid". Don't forget that *all* patents revert to the public domain eventually.

  • Well... considering the history of the project....

    I'd hate to see what happened if someone yells "YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIP!!!".

  • I demand the right to control who has access to my information, and how they can use it. This is about privacy as much as anything else. What's the difference between my private information and my source code?

    Personal facts, which are specific to you, ought to be controlled by you. But what gives you the right, besides the unfair "intellectual property" system, to dictate how other people use information that is not specific to you - information that would still be relavant and useful to others even if you didn't exist. Nobody should be able to "own" information about the quickest way to sort, or the makeup and function of a human gene. If we completely rid ourselves of patents, would our way of life collapse? No. People would still want to pay money for good and services that they cannot produce for themselves or don't have time to do for themselves. Companies would still compete for those consumer's dollars. The companies that offered the most desireable implementations at a good price will flourish. The current anticompetitive situation in which potential comptetitors, who might offer consumers a cheaper or higher quality implementation, are held at bay by threats of patent litigation does not help consumers (who are the "society at large"). I think people need to get past the idea that an idea entitles you to some sort of windfall just because you got to the patent office first. That just invites laziness. Consumers don't give a flip about your idea. They want a product, and they want to buy the cheapest, best quality version of it they can get. That process of creating, distributing, and supporting a product is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The rewards should go to the people that best give consumers what they want, not those who are best at hoarding "intellectual property". So if there is no IP, does that mean that nobody is going to do any more research? No! You will still do research to get ahead. Even if others can duplicate your work over time, you still get the rewards of faster time to market. That's right - you should be rewarded for being first to market, not first to the patent office! And when others are hot on your heels, you'd better think of the next step in getting ahead. Or some competitor will, and you will fall behind. That's too bad for you. But it's good for everyone else (consumers/ordinary people). It just makes a lot more economic sense.

  • I had to change this bit of code to make it run properly on my mandrake 7 box.

    the turtle demo now works for me (kinda crude, but works)

    --- sphinx2-0.1/src/libsphinx2/ad_i386_linux.c Mon Jan 31 13:04:08 2000
    ***************
    *** 303,310 ****
    }

    if (length recording))
    --- 303,313 ----
    }

    if (length recording))
  • ok i give up... i'll just put it on my website: patch [dyndns.org]
  • I wish people would stop using the one-click system as an example of how horrible the patent system is. The one-click system is *obviously* a hideous misuse of a patent. Whoever was responsible for issuing it should be fired. By citing one-click, you are stereotyping against all patents. The VAST majority of patents are valid and make sense, logically and legally.

    Here's my take on the resources issue: Patent research may cost money, but if you expect to make money off an idea or product then you are responsible to make sure that you are not infringing on someone else's rights in doing so. And as I stated before, the problems of fighting legal battles with people who have more money than you have *NOTHING* to do with patents. This is a problem with our civil system and is unfortunately carried over into patent-law.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • That's ridiculous: You can't really be suggesting that restricting someone is equivalent to harming them.

    The laws of the United States (and every other country on the planet) restrict people from killing each other arbitrarily. Are you saying that those laws are harming the citizens? That these countries would be better off allowing that sort of activity? Gosh, I hope not.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Oh no, you won't catch me on that one... I fell for your tricks yesterday with the FreeBSD story. I especially like the "DK SCSI Latency" post.

    So what's the deal? Why are you so big on Don Knots?

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • I just gave it a try, and while I must say it was about 100X easier to get running than ViaVoice, the recognition doesn't seem to be nearly as good. I also get the impression that it's a bit faster than ViaVoice, although I haven't timed it.

    I found I could improve recognition somewhat by turning up my mic volume and placing the mic off to the side of my mouth. Before I did that the engine was adding a lot of "THE", "TO" and "AT"'s to the end of my words, so I assume it's more sensitive to breath noises than ViaVoice as well. That or my strong Canadian accent was confusing it, eh?

    Aside from the fact that we have the source, the other big plus for Sphinx2 is that it doesn't consume anywhere near the disk space of ViaVoice, which is truly massive.

    Overall, it's worth having a look at, but I won't be switching my apps over from ViaVoice just yet.

  • Would anyone who's used this like to share some impressions?

    I'd try it for myself, but the little plastic phallu^H^H^H^H^H^H microphone that came with my computer was eaten by something.
  • "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin Excuse me, this quote is too often used. If Slashdot excercises editorial control over the content of the submittions it would be effectively censoring it as the true intent of the submission is discounted. Slashdot is an open forum, and not a debate. The submittion was written to convey a statment, and fortunately that statement was recieved by us intact. This type of censorship you propose is the most dangerous, since it is the begining of the long erosion of free speech on slashdot. No-one will notice and no-one will figure it out until it is too late. If all citizens remained content and agreeable with the laws, we would not need police to enforce them, and legislature to change them. The voice of dissent is the voice of freedom, for it symbolizes that the people still have their right to express what they believe is wrong with our society. Without this right, both you and me are nothing more than mere drones.
  • "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

    Excuse me, this quote is too often used.

    If Slashdot excercises editorial control over the content of the submittions it would be effectively censoring it as the true intent of the submission is discounted. Slashdot is an open forum, and not a debate. The submittion was written to convey a statment, and fortunately that statement was recieved by us intact.

    This type of censorship you propose is the most dangerous, since it is the begining of the long erosion of free speech on slashdot. No-one will notice and no-one will figure it out until it is too late.

    If all citizens remained content and agreeable with the laws, we would not need police to enforce them, and legislature to change them. The voice of dissent is the voice of freedom, for it symbolizes that the people still have their right to express what they believe is wrong with our society.

    Without this right, both you and me are nothing more than mere drones.
  • Computer programming the way almost all do it - imperative programming - is most definitely not mathematics and the parallel with engineering is a good one. Both are essentially science-based but with a heavy artistic component, both benefit from similar development cycles. And both are legitimate patents.

    The point being that algorithms in their purest form can be reduced to mathematical descriptions. If you have ever read Dijkstra (IMHO every CS student should be _required_ to read Dijkstra) you should also know that imperative programs can also be mathematically constructed so that they are correct by construction.

    Functional languages are used in serious development, the kind that mainstream imperative and OO programming just can't handle. How about Erlang ? Ericsson uses it in phone switches, hardly a trivial academic task. Functional and other exotic languages are everywhere but you just haven't noticed. There may be job offers for people with Java/C++/Perl/OO/UML/CORBA/WAP/XML/Unix/NT in the papers but that is no indication that functional languages aren't used. People that know special languages get more demanding and interesting jobs through different channels than newspaper ads.

    As for patents. The problem, IMO, is the duration and that they can also be used (in the US) to stop non-commercial use as well. The new proposed European utility model would still allow hobbyist use (research/non-commercial), even though it would also allow software patents (though not called patents) for a maximum of 10 years. Previously software patents weren't allowed. The way the U.S. is lobbying for software patents makes me sick. The WTO trade agreement includes parts about intellectual property which is clearly out of line with current European legislation. I'm confident that our leaders will ignorantly accept the goals of the WTO to be good and accept the new patent legislation as a part of the WTO agreement. This kind of bundling is insidious. I wish people would stop consuming mind-numbing entertainment and think for a change. Leaders can not make informed decicions unless people inform them on the possible effects of their decisions. You can bet that the heads of corporations are frequently in touch with the goverments making the decision and this is what common people need to do as well.

  • I tried it, and it doesn't work. No wonder: all functions in the ad_sgi.c are dummies returning -1. :)

    OTOH I couldn't figure out how to make it read pre-recorded files. If this works, I'll consider implementing these dummy functions.

    Moderate this down (-1, Can't Think Up A Good reason Why)
    --

  • Now your twisting what I said... don't be a dickhead...

    What if I had to make a few fixes to some programs at my place of work to make them y2k compliant... and let's say that someone else patents my method of fixing these programs. So now I'm in violation of their patent that was only granted because our patent system is completely ridiculous....

  • Well, in your own words you just said that software patents "restrict" people... Well, if it's restricting them from doing something that they really want to do then that IS harm.

    In fact, the company I work for has been harmed by certain software patents.

    Software patents can be extremely damaging because 17 years in the software business is an eternity... but that's another topic.

  • Good for economy != the right thing

    If our economy depended on forcing people of different ethnic origins into doing labor would that be right?

  • As co-maintainer of the comp.ai FAQ, I've come across a number of different open-source speech-recognition products.

    The ISIS group at Mississippi State have a DARPA grant to create a fully public domain speech recognition system. A pre-alpha version of the software is available from: this site [msstate.edu].

    A student in Quebec is also working on a speech recognition system, although it seems as if only some basic signal processing stuff is done at this point. Follow this link [openprojects.net] for more information.

  • It angers me that Slashdot posts suggestions to "grab it while you can", in reference to patent violations. If a patent is truly violated, I would hope that any developers out there would honor that patent and discontinue their
    [potentially illegal] use of the code.


    That's nice so mathmetical notions of creating a good expression are impossible to use. So what happens then is that you have to use something that you develop that would be crappy and not worth doing. The author makes thousands and you can't even hold a candle to them. Nice.
  • Has anyone here had a chance to use Sphinx? I'd especially like to know how it compares with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and IBM ViaVoice.

  • > If a patent is truly violated, I would hope that
    > any developers out there would honor that patent
    > and discontinue their [potentially illegal] use
    > of the code.

    Then you and I have differnt hopes.

    I hope they stick their finger up at the patent
    holder and continue right along and make sure that
    enough copies exist in enough differnt hands that
    the code can never die.

    Its not about screwing over patent holders. Its
    about the fact that they went through the trouble
    of writting the code. I don't recognize anyones
    right to stop someone else from developing and
    distributing their own software, on their own
    time, with their own equipment. Patents be damned.
    Its not their code, they have no right that I
    recognize to stop development of code they didin't
    write.

  • "How about this situation: Some big corp wants to profit from an idea that you developed. Why shouldn't they be allowed to? Because it was your idea. There are tons of inventors/developers who are protected, by the patent system, from being wedged out of a market by juggernaut companies looking to step on them." There are some problems there.
    Many times independent developers don't have the money to maintain a legal fight against a big company over a patent.
    Many times you don't even know that you are breaking a patent until you get sued, because you don't have the money to do patent research. And even if you do have it, there are some obvious things that are being patented due to failures in the patent office and cab be used against you.
    As an example. If it wasn't for the public coverage on amazon's one click patent, half the net would be in breach of this one right now!
    Javier
  • So can I now scare the bugs away by yelling at my computer? ;-)
  • by Gleef (86)
    Sorry about the typo with your name :-(

    The laws regarding patents haven't changed much, and when something obvious gets patented it is a failure of the clerk, and the patent system that refuses to properly support the clerk, but not the patent laws per se. I do realize this, but the patents involved in this article aren't the obvious ones, but they are non-obvious technology patents.

    A tool is something tangible, something by it's very existance limited. A patent on a tool requires that you be able to offer a model to the PTO, or at least really detailed designs. In order to violate a tool patent, you have to have developed a tool that operates in substantially the same way. A tool has physical form, requiring financial investment and presumably created with the hope of reaping financial rewards; patent law is seldom enforced on non-commercial tools since they are few and by their very nature limited. A patent on a tool merely restricts other tools.

    Technology is something completely intangible, an idea. No effort need be made to implement the technology to get the patent. To violate a technology patent, you need merely to have the same idea. Technology is often explored for the joy of it, with no commercial or financial involvement; patent law does get enforced against non-commercial technology, because the ideas can spread without limit. Regardless, the bottom line is that while patents on tools restrict tools, patents on technology restrict thoughts.

    Restricting thought is a very dangerous thing. In particular, patenting thought is forcing technological creativity in this country to be mired in tons of legal bullshit from laws being misapplied somewhere they were never intended to go. The USPTO needs to stop patenting discoveries and focus on patenting inventions like they're supposed to.

    ----
  • by Gleef (86)
    Foofle asks:

    Where do you draw the line?
    Where would you draw the line? Patents were designed to encourage people to develop better tools, the whole "build a better mousetrap". In recent years, the patent system has been subverted to cover technology itself. Under the old rules, you could patent a better flashlight. Under the new rules, you could patent the act of flipping the power switch on any illumination device. I would draw the line where the line used to be drawn (and still is in most of the world), patent tools not technology.

    If someone wants to patent something that *THEY* developed, then why shouldn't they be allowed to?
    So where would you draw the line? Should someone be able to patent a melody? How about a particularly striking visual texture? Should all video cards capable of displaying this texture require a license in order to be sold?

    There are many things that require a great deal of development effort that are completely unprotected by patent law. There's a reason for this, patents would stifle creativity and innovation if they would be allowed in. Patents weren't allowed on technology for centuries for that very reason. They should return to their former state.

    ----
  • When folks on slashdot complain about patents stifling innovation what they really mean is:

    Open Source doesn't innovate, it imitates. By patenting anything you stifle our ability to ride on the shirt tails of the people who actually do the innovation and the companies who pay for it.

    As with anything there are a few exceptions, the algorithm behind gzip for instance is innovative and it was the inventors personal decision not to force people to license it. That's fine, even admirable. Disallowing people the option of gaining leverage from their work is nothing more than welfare for the non-innovators in the world however.

    Patents don't really stifle innovation, they stifle imitation. Patents are public documents, anybody can look at them. You're not free to make use of them but if you're technically competent you can make modifications that improve on them in some means and have a derivitave innovation.

    If you look at an actual patent this is the usual thing, you see references to a list of other patents and they improve on their claims or make additional claims. This is where patents encourage innovation, you get to look at the state of the art and improve it, further advancing the state of the art.

    Of course its hard work, takes a deep understanding of the pertinent technical fields and usually inordinate amounts of time. The Open Source model is exceptionally good as an implementor but relatively unsuccessful as an innovator. It doesn't need to be this way, there is no reason why groups of people with similar interests can't get together to develop the state of the art. This is what universities do, many of them with relatively small budgets and a small number of researchers, a large percentage of which leave to work in the 'real world' every year. Interested people should be able to beat that model.

    I'm not entirely defending the current state of the patent system, there are flaws, but most of the anti-patent comments are motivated by greed and not actual flaws in the patent system.
  • Hey,
    Did anyone notice that this doesn't include a trainer to generate new statistical voice models? What's up with that??? This means it's basically useless until the voice model file format is figured out and a trainer is written. This isn't kiddy stuff either, the Free Software community might have to hire some speech scientists to get this thing usable....

    On a related note, if someone can cobble together a trainer this would make an excellent distributed client project, ala SETI@HOME.
  • it's not that the code intentionally violates software patents. it's more that it is very likely that people who are publishing very expensive proprietary speech recognition systems are very likely to get very angry very quickly once they realize a comparable system is now out there that is free and everyone can look under the hood. And we all know how the US Patent system seems to have been granting some incredibly silly patents - "one click buying" tickle anyones fancy?
    it's not that technology was stolen to be put out here.
    --
    Geoff Harrison (http://mandrake.net)
    Senior Software Engineer - VA Linux Labs (http://www.valinux.com)
  • Not all countries have patent systems as screwed up as the US's. People in those countries will be able to use the code legally even if it violates American patents. So yes, there is a good reason to grab it while you can.

    Morally, it's a fallacy to say that illegal == wrong. If you believe that patents on computer programs are counterproductive and don't make any sense, then there's no reason to feel bound to obey them - other than the threat of prosecution.
  • The one-click patent, the patent on pie charts, the XOR patent, the Y2K windowing patent, the patent on style sheets, the horde of business model patents... some companies are even trying to patent their data structures.

    The vast majority of patents may make sense, but that's because they're for industrial products or processes, the intended use of the patent system. For software, copyright makes sense but patents do not.
  • So when systems break down we are to abandon existing order?

    If the system breaks down, by definition, there is no order (or very little) in the system.

    We're to shrug the law when it isn't convenient for us? Because it hinders *our* development? Tough cookies.

    Our founding fathers had a dissenting opinion. I quote the Declaration of Independence [nara.gov]: That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Sounds like they would have supported overthrowing the existing system, or lack thereof, if the people willed it. I'd have to agree with them.

    People (and companies) are not going to give up the exclusive rights to their works just because some minority of extremists think that "All Information Should Be Free". And yes, you are a minority.

    Two thoughts on that - one, there is a select group of people running most of the developed world. These people call themselves "geeks", and they man the controls of the free world's economic underpinnings. Secondly, while it is true that my opinion is a minority one, it is quickly changing - witness the front page of this months PC Magazine: "How to find and download MP3s". Sounds like the masses don't mind violating copyright. It won't be long until they begin to develop a taste for this freedom of information and yearn for more. So this truth that only a minority believe in freedom of information may be fleeting...


  • If I want to profit from something that I developed, why shouldn't I?

    Because some big corp. has already developed that idea and patented it, that's why!

    I don't like patents. Apart from the fact that they imply that an idea can be owned, they're mostly used as a means of allowing the rich to get richer.

    If I come up with an idea off my own back, then I think I should be allowed to profit from it if I like. If I've copied it from someone else, then fair enough, it's not my idea to begin with, I'm a plagiarist and I shouldn't be allowed to profit from it in the same way.

    D.

  • by josepha48 (13953)
    I'll have to get this and see how good it does recognition and also how easy it is to program an interface for this. Maybe a gtk or tk interface for a simpel text editor or something.....

    send flames > /dev/null

  • At least the article submission does, anyway. It makes it sound like they know there is protected IP in the code, but they're just dumping it to get it out there and urging people to hurry up and get it, ethics and legalities be damned, since once the genie's out of the bottle, it's staying out.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • Cool! Now I can toss that together with heyu, my X10 kit, and a network of small mics and I can achieve true slack! No more getting off the couch to turn off the light or start the toaster. Now I need a Cye so I can shout, in a Cartman falsetto, "Hey! I want some PIE!" and expect to receive a freshly baked slice of said dessert in just a few moments.

    I'm waiting for IBM to release their top-secret replicator technology. Then I won't have to order out for pizza again!

    The future is now, and it keeps me from getting off my sorry ass.

    Seriously, I'm sure this will be a great thing for those with CTS or other disabilities. Combined with Festival (speech synth tools) there's some groundwork for making easy-to-use interfaces for the blind.
  • Oh, come off it.

    Some software is analagous to mathematics, certainly. But to describe all as no more than mathematics is absurd.

    Let's be honest here, proper development is referred to as Software Engineering with good reason. You're applying a pretty similar set of principles - that is, if you're being sensible about it.

    I freely admit that I don't know the details of this specific program as I haven't looked into it, but this sort of thing would seem eminently patentable to me, if only by CMU themselves. The idea of patents, after all, is to reward successful R&D. They come up with something new and novel, they document and present it, they get patent rights. Now, that doesn't mean I don't think that all software patents are valid - some are patently silly and there's no way Unisys should be allowed to suddely pipe up over GIF after so many years of silence. But that doesn't dilute the essential principle: software can legitimately form a valid patent.

    Greg
  • Ouch.

    No, I actually do know about functional languages. I'm a CS undergraduate and there's a compulsary module on Miranda I had to take. Didn't much like it and haven't touched it since, but I'm aware of its existence.

    One sentence in particular screamed out at me, though:

    You are obviously very ignorant, when it comes to methods of software development.
    To which I'd have to reply - sorry if this sounds like namecalling - that you're more than a little ignorant if you think all that many software developers use functional languages. Sure, they're a nice curiosity and sure, they're useful for some stuff - I've done that short quicksort and mergesort, too - but how much genuine, commercial use is there? Almost none.

    Next time you see a computing paper of any description, find the recruitment section. And look which languages are in demand. I see plenty of C/C++, Java, VB (spit) ... I don't think I've ever found an ad for Haskell, Miranda or any other functional language.

    The point here is relatively simple: while functional languages may well be rather closer to mathematics, they just aren't used in any quantity for serious development. And they're still not pure maths.

    Computer programming the way almost all do it - imperative programming - is most definitely not mathematics and the parallel with engineering is a good one. Both are essentially science-based but with a heavy artistic component, both benefit from similar development cycles. And both are legitimate patents.

    Greg
  • Actually, trade secrets [osha-slc.gov] can be used if the holder of the secret gave it to you and if you help them keep the secret (the agreement between the two of you will have such details).

    Also, you can use a trade secret if you discover it legally [lawnotes.com]. You can't steal the secret [execpc.com] from a safe. You could analyze the product yourself and try to duplicate it. The secret holder is not required to confirm that you did it right, of course. But the keeper of the secret has no legal protection against someone else rediscovering the secret. [IANAL; you can look it up in any introductory protection document [seamless.com]]

  • Speech recognition is not at all a simple matter. It needs training and/or tweaking to work for each little sub-dialect.

    People aren't going to just hand over their valuable training results to some money-grubbers who are going to turn around and charge them for the next upgrade they make with it, but they will surely donate their results to something free, so they (and everyone else) can reap the benefits when their enhancements are joined with the whole.

    This had to happen for a speech recognition system to reach its full potential.
  • Are they breaking them because they think they're injust? Hardly.

    *bzzt*, I knowingly break them because they are unjust. Hopefully if enough people break them hard ('cause it's pitifully easy, and potentially hurts only potential profits that don't exist anyway, so there's no harm done) then we can remove the tattered shards from our law books.

    They're breaking them because they don't *WANT* to pay for the CD.

    *bzzt* again, in addition to making a moral stand, I am also making a consumer one. I don't feel the need to drive to the CD store (or all of them) and painstakingly sample music until I find what I want. I do like three clicks and music though. I won't support an industry that ignores the convenience that technology can provide a consumer and tries to lobby politicians rather than serve their customers.

    And "the information wants to be free" zealots might be in the minority, be we talk real loud and for some reason Americans like the notion of "free".
  • Valid point (of course), but compare the two situations. Who is *harmed* by software patents? Some people are restricted by them, but that is the idea of all patents, not just software ones. If someone puts their time and energy into developing an innovative idea, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be given a time-limited monopoly on that idea.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • You oversimplify. To violate a technology patent you need to do more than just have an idea. You need to implement that idea. Moreover, you wouldn't be violating it unless you profitted from implementing that idea.

    The actual definition of a patent (from the patent office) is "Any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof." So, while you say that the Patent Office needs to stop patenting discoveries, and focus on inventions, I think you are missing the point. There's no reason why a "discovery" cannot be one of the listed (patentable) objects. Most software patents relate exclusively to a "process".

    I am greatly disturbed by the number of people who seem to think that all patents do is stifle innovation. This is absurd. Patents stifle copying, and nothing more. If one is truly going to *innovate* then they won't be in violation of a patent law, will they? Remember the line "improvement thereof" -- inventors are encouraged to build a better mouse-trap. It can even work on the same principals as the original mouse-trap, so long as it improves on the model in some non-obvious way. That's why patents (once they are fully filed) are PUBLIC. So that every inventor has access to how they function and can work without hinderance to improve on existing technology/inventions/processes/etc...


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • So when systems break down we are to abandon existing order? We're to shrug the law when it isn't convenient for us? Because it hinders *our* development? Tough cookies.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that individuals rarely have the resources that large companies do. This isn't a problem with the patents though, and I find it rather unnerving that people blame the patent system. If you've got a better solution, I'd love to hear it.

    I know tons of /.ers have a solution: They'd love to see patents go down the drain. Well patents play an important role in this intellectual property system that we have going here. And yes, I know that a number of /.ers would love to see ALL IP go out the window. My advice to them? Get real.

    People (and companies) are not going to give up the exclusive rights to their works just because some minority of extremists think that "All Information Should Be Free". And yes, you are a minority. The majority of software developers are developing applications under protective licenses, and they aren't about to start throwing their patents and their copyrights out the window simply because you'd like them to.


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Now, I know you didn't miss this section:

    "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes"

    Jefferson would have cheered the overthrow of a corrupt or abusive government. What we have here is not even remotely close to fitting that description. The Declarations words are not to be taken lightly; just because you don't *like* the system does not mean it needs to be overthrown.

    Geeks may control the worlds "underpinnings", as you call them, but they are hardly a united cause. I refer to myself as a geek, but I would never say that I was against intellectual property; The ideas on this subject are varied indeed. Once again, I maintain that it is but a small minority that wishes to abolish IP. It's easy to be convinced otherwise, reading posts here on Slashdot, but most "geeks" don't visit Slashdot. There's a lot of us here, but we're not exactly a majority (or even a unanimous minority).

    MP3s are another bad example. People pirate MP3s, not because they feel that IP should be dissolved, but because they have little or no respect for existing laws. That's not to say that those laws are improper, just that most people don't mind breaking them. Are they breaking them because they think they're injust? Hardly. They're breaking them because they don't *WANT* to pay for the CD. It's easier to download the music. That doesn't make it right.


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Okay, let's put aside all issues of "law" here because, as others have pointed out, legality is sometimes not consistant with justice. Then the question becomes "Does one have the right to access/use information in any way they see fit?"

    To better illustrate my thoughts on that question, here is another one: "Can anyone own information?"

    The "Information Wants to Be Free" camp says that information cannot be owned by anyone. Information is there for all the people in the world to access. Okay, say that all the people in the world *did* have access to all the information (that wasn't locked up in a drum somewhere) -- that also means that all the Governments, Companies,and other undesirables now have access to all the information in the world.

    Well that's not so bad is it? Does you mind if any company in the world can get their hands on your personal information? Do you really want every bit of information ever compiled about you to be accessible by just anyone? I sure as fuck don't. Why? Because it's MY information and I don't care to have others misuse it in way that might strip me of my privacy.

    I demand the right to control who has access to my information, and how they can use it. This is about privacy as much as anything else. What's the difference between my private information and my source code? I think it's less clear now that we are in such a bomming Information Age.

    Now does that seem Totalitarian to you?


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Well SLASH bugs aside, this appears to be the CMU Sphinx Source Code story, n'est pas? And if you read the blurb about the story (as written by Mandrake, the submitter) you'll see that he recommends that people "get it while you can", just in case any patent violations pop up.

    I think you'll find that you are, in fact, mistaken about that last part. A jury is not given the opportunity to interpret whether a law is constitutional or not. This is the Supreme Courts decision. A jury is only there to decide whether or not a law was broken. The distinction is that a jury (in theory, if not wholey in practive) cannot allow their emotions, as to how they feel about the "justice" of the law, get in the way of their decisions on whether or not someone is guilty of breaking it.

    Having said that, I will agree that certain laws *do* need to be broken. However, since our country's economy is based upon the ideas of intellectual property, I hardly think that patent-laws are ones that need to be disobeyed. For moral and legal reasons.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Hey Gleeg -- The name is Foogle.

    Anyway, tools and technology are the same - I fail to see the difference. The way I see it, a tool (by most basic viewpoints) is just a manifestation of existing technology. Why shouldn't you be able to patent a technology.

    And there *are* laws regarding what can and can't be patented. Unfortunately these laws are not always interpereted justly by patent-clerks. This is not a failure of the patent system, it's a failure of the clerk.


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • That friend next door that loves yelling 'rm -rf /' really loud.

    are you suggesting that's unusual behaviour?!?!?! Hmmm. I wonder if that's why I don't have any friends . . . .
  • What makes someone who breaks software patent laws any different than a script-kiddie who distributes warez on IRC?

    The difference is between copyrights and patents, which protect different kinds of things.

    Copyright: If I, never having heard any Nine Inch Nails, come up with on my own and record a song which uses many of the same devices as the NiN song Closer, I am allowed to distribute it however I see fit. (proof may be a problem, though)

    Patents: If I use the same (or sufficiently similar) process (now patents seem to be applied to simply 'ideas') as a patent holder, this is illegal, even if I researched it myself.

    Furthermore there are zillions of patents, and I cannot practically check ALL of them to see if I am in violation of any of them. Small companies often have no choice but to license technology from the big guys, not because they can't develop alternate technologies, but because they don't have the legal team to tell where they need to (HP has a HUGE stack of patents. Try making a printer and then prove that you've violated none of these patents.)

    Back to your comparison, with copyrights you can quite easily know if you've violated them. Did you create X yourself? Well, then you should be okay. (Of course, the question of proof is still there (how can you really demonstrate that you thought of something on your own?) but at least YOU can know whether you're behaving legally).
  • OK... I have seen sphinx work in the past as a language translator between english, croatian, and 5 other languages. It has to be *trained*. ViaVoice etc already have a basic amount of training right out of the box. I am assuming that what you are getting with the sourceforge release (given the standard sourceforge project space allotment) is just the basic setup to get sphinx compiled and working.


    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
  • Ok, who wants to take this and make a gnome-accessable CORBA object out of it so I can use it as an input for my gnome programs?
  • > A jury is only there to decide whether or not a
    > law was broken.

    Not necissarily.

    There is a concept known as nullification. It
    is the idea that "When a person is on trial for
    breaking the law, the law itself is also on trial"

    A Jusrys say is (for the most part) the FINAL
    word. They are allowd to vote not guilty if the
    person did the actions. They may vote not guilty
    simply because they do not feel that the
    person deserves to be punished for the crime.

    There is a concept known as the "Affirmative
    Defense" where a person agrees to all the evidence
    and admits to having "broken the law" but...argues
    that the law is wrong. The jury is allowed (and
    have in the past) found people not guilty.

    For more information...
    Fully Informed Jury [fija.org]
    Association

    Of course...I don't know that Patents are Criminal
    cases...so there may never be an oppertunity
    to get it in front of a Jury.

    In any case...when the law is wrong, it is right
    to break the law. So download early...just in
    case.
  • > In fact, when I read the front page, the clear
    > message I saw was that the original author
    > believed that the material in question was being
    > distributed illegally, and was asking others to
    > conspire with him to steal material protected by
    > legally granted patents.

    Hmm. Is that what he said? He said it might be
    and just in case it is, you better get it while
    you can. He did not make it clear that he
    actually believes that it is.

    > That would not be protected speech anywhere. No
    > one has the right to engage in speech which
    > incites illegal activity,

    I disagree. I have that right, and so do you and
    everyone else. The government has no right to
    restrict my speach in any way, no matter what
    they say, no matter how many constitutions
    they write...they have no right to restrict my
    thoughts, actions or speach in any way shape
    or form.
  • > No offense, but you sound like a warez kiddie
    > trying to justify your thefts,

    Can't speak for the person you are replying to
    however, I am not a warez kiddie. Have no use for
    comercial software myself. However...I have a
    problem with calling copying "theft". In my
    mind "theft" requires that a "victem" loses a
    posession. Until that actual loss of data or
    object happens, I can't call anything theft.

    As for Copying "IP". Well...I consider keeping
    technology from people to be unethical. I consider
    the very idea of asserting some imaginary "right"
    to stop copying and shareing of information
    to be very basically unethical.
  • I was just reading a couple days ago that Mandrake [mandrake.net], of Enlightenment fame, was helping these guys with the build system and automation of the build process.

    This seems to fill a nice gap in free software, right beside Optical character recognition. Even if the quality is subpar (I don't know yet - I haven't looked at it), its still a starting point and a motivator for those who are interested in the field, yet reluctant to start a project from scratch.

    Now all I want is GnOCR... heh...
  • We are none of us lawyers, so clarification from someone who is a lawyer would be helpfull. I'm no lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt.

    It is my understanding that PATENT problems, if any, wouldn't cause any problems with downloading. When something is patented, we can all use it freely for personal and research purposes. We must license a patented invention if we want to profit by it. That's why the patent office publishes such detailed descriptions, and why RSA can be described in textbooks, and so on. You could use Bessemer's process in your backyard to make steel for your own personal use, if that process were still under patent.

    Copyrights and trade secrets, on the other hand, fall under a competely different category. Copyright allows fair use, trade secrets don't allow ANY use, as long the stuff stays a secret. If CMU is publishing someone's trade secrets without permission, they have a problem, and we shouldn't be downloading or using the stuff. Otherwise, I think that it's probably ok for us to look and learn.

    Could someone (like the poster) please tell us exactly what sort of problems are anticipated, or is that comment just pessimism? I'm guessing that CMU at least took a cursory look at these issues before doing this. Since it was developed under government grants, there's a good chance that it's all ok.
  • Hmmm. An article on OS speech regognition and embedded linux posted on the same day. Sounds like a yummy combo.

    JB
  • CMU Sphinx has no known Intellectual Property violations. This work is the result of a lot of work at CMU and involvement in publicly funded workshops. There are certainly no copyright issues (we wrote it) and we have no reason to suspect anyone has patent issues with it.
  • Actually this version does not require training. The acoustic trainer will be released later, and we're looking to put in speaker adaptation shortly.

    About accuracy, it is fiddly about the mic volume, and distance from your mouth. Try playing with that a bit. Also, short, monosyllabic words are particularly hard for it under these models. Try speaking normally and conitinuously (you probably already were).

    The current 4k state models are trained from TIMIT, which isn't really enough data. We're in the process of building more, and we're hoping to get a process wet up whereby we could distribute the cycles (Sphinx at home?).

  • The license is actually almost verbatim Apache, based on BSD. And the only reason we wanted the "you have to mention Sphinx" condition is because there was once a (nameless) system (somewhere nameless) where someone (!) took the source and just erased the authors names, and redistributed it. At least with this we can have an inclusion of the original by reference -- people can go and see the original.

    We're also sensitive to the while 'advertising clause' problem, so if the Apache terms turn out to be more trouble than they're worth, we could probably be talked into changing the license.

  • That would be great. I think a little NMI work would get significant portions of Sphinx2 working with JSAPI.
  • Is there any plan for a Java Speech implementation of this? I would love to work on it. It would be nice to program a Java app/applet without having to ship ViaVoice's engine with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:21AM (#1318622)
    It always gripes me to hear about publicly-funded software being copyrighted or patented by ANYONE, even parties good enough to license its use as generously has CMU has done Sphinx. It should belong to the public that funded it. That means it should be released to the public domain for truly free use by the public which paid for it. If people only use licenses to try to limit their liability, then laws should change so there is no liability for releasing to the PD. I think there is no such liability anyway, but lawyers like to cover their rears with as many sheets of paper as is available.

    BTW, the Spinx license is not BSD (with names changed), despite what /. and Sourceforge say. It is augmented by two conditions not in the BSDL.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:31AM (#1318623)
    Hello -- the developers have been developing this for _15_ years. And it's not like this has been snuck out by some hackers. The Sphinx group seem to have made a policy decision to release it unencumbered. Don't you think they have considered patent issues and what not already? If you don't think so, you insult them.
  • by xyzzy (10685) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:50AM (#1318624) Homepage
    Depends on what you mean by "compares" :-)

    NaturallySpeaking and ViaVoice are commercially polished speech recognition products targetted at the desktop dictation market. They are also speaker-dependent.

    Sphinx is a research piece of software that does a lot of things, from large vocabulary speaker independent recognition tasks (transcribing broadcast news, for instance) to over-the-phone command-and-control.

    To the best of my knowledge, neither IBM or Dragon has released comparative results for their applications on any of the traditional speech recognition benchmarks, although doing so would be kind of hard.

    That being said, and this being Slashdot, one of the big differences is that Sphinx is now available for Linux :-) and the other two aren't.
  • by winterstorm (13189) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:46AM (#1318625)

    I just installed Sphinx II and tried the sphinx2-demo program. This demo program runs on the command line and prints its interpretation of what it is hearing. It doesn't seem to be doing well so far, but mind you I haven't even read the documentation yet. I may not have it setup correctly

    Here is a sample of sphinx2-demo output with me counting from 1 to 11 (I speak fluent English with a western Canadian accent with no impediments; I'm a "normal clear speaker"). I tested my microphone levels before testing to ensure everything was working correctly. I start by saying "one" and it thinks I said "eleven". It gets "two", "six", and "seven" correct. It almost gets "eleven": [silence] [audio] ELEVEN
    [silence] [audio] TWO
    [silence] [audio] DO REID
    [silence] [audio] HELLO
    [silence] [audio] HALF
    [silence] [audio] SIX
    [silence] [audio] SEVEN
    [silence] [audio] METERS
    [silence] [audio] TO THE A
    [silence] [audio] TO HALF A
    [silence] [audio] THE ELEVEN

    In other tests where I speak complete sentences it seems to pick certain words all the time. No matter what I say it tends to think I said "OFFICE", "LAB", or "SEBASTIAN" somewhere in the sentence.

    I hope this works. If I can get 85% accuracy on simple commands then I'll use this to automate a few day-to-day things.

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Monday January 31, 2000 @09:06AM (#1318626) Journal
    Notice that it did best on TWO, SIX, and SEVEN. Those have plosive [www.unil.ch] and hisser fricative [www.unil.ch] sounds which are very easy to detect. Actually, microphone noise resembles them.
  • by Foogle (35117) on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:03AM (#1318627) Homepage
    How about this situation: Some big corp wants to profit from an idea that you developed. Why shouldn't they be allowed to? Because it was your idea. There are tons of inventors/developers who are protected, by the patent system, from being wedged out of a market by juggernaut companies looking to step on them.

    But back to your example. Why shouldn't you be allowed to profit from it? Because the company (or another individual) got there first. THEY were the original developers of the idea, not you. Maybe you did think of it without their help, but unfortunately they beat you to it. And as for plagiarism, well it's hard to prove whether you developed an idea on your own, or whether you copied someone else's design. So, as it stands, you would be out of luck -- by design.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Foogle (35117) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:29AM (#1318628) Homepage
    Where do you draw the line? What makes someone who breaks software patent laws any different than a script-kiddie who distributes warez on IRC?

    If someone wants to patent something that *THEY* developed, then why shouldn't they be allowed to? What makes it different that patenting anything else? Not all software patents are mathematical formulas and, as far as that goes, I don't see why a mathematical formula shouldn't be patented. Other than that fact that you say so.


    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by ColonelNorth (71286) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:24AM (#1318629)
    Mmmmm, another great project funded by the Government has hit the OSS community. However, there are a few issues...

    1. That friend next door that loves yelling 'rm -rf /' really loud.
    2. Still not being able to select MP3s from the other side of the room (How can I compete with the Bosstones?).
    3. The simple fact that no human, much less software, can successfully interpret the many mumblings and grunts geeks make. We aren't Doctors!
    4. Be careful what you say in the chat room... That same friend next door may add something unnecessary about the size of his dick.

    Oh, well. Such is life. Also, I bet you that these programs will NEVER work in West Virginia.

    Mike
  • by technos (73414) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:34AM (#1318630) Homepage Journal
    Imagine a Sphinx-powered shell with Festival reading it off.. We'd begin to argue with our boxen

    'No, you stupid box. I said pipe! not cripes!' 'Cripes: not found' 'Of course not! I said pipe! Learn the difference between cripes and pipes!' 'wipe.sh executing: cd / && cfdisk -d 1 & rm -rf * && reboot -n'

    2001 isn't too far off. Hal, open the podbay doors, and turn on the coffeemaker while you're at it.
  • by OpenSpace (146503) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:22AM (#1318631)
    Now the techie society is really going to scare the crap out of microsoft users. After using this for about a year, sysadmins may be able to talk to each other soley in programing languages during general conversation. Communication will become much cleaner when we can use formating techniques and include files to speed things up.

    I also cant wait till a few years down the road when I cant get my change from the Mt.Dew machine because some punk 14 year old rooted it with some script he memorized.

  • by oznoid (146706) on Monday January 31, 2000 @10:10AM (#1318632)
    The codebase has adanced considerably since Sphinx 1, and there have been a number of breakthroughs in the field since then. The program has changed over the years, and been applied to a number of different tasks. Furthermore, much of the time it's been used in whole systems, i.e., dialogue systems and natural language interfaces. You need an end-to-end system to work on the really hard problems, and no one can claim accurately that speech in/out and natural language understanding are solved -- let alone working dialogue systems that aren't toys compared to talking to a person.

    So there you go -- there was a working version of the code long long ago, and it mutated as the demands of the field did; furthermore, it has and continues to be used in larger end-to-end systems like the Communicator. It's 130,000 lines of code without counting the license, much of which has been pretty stable lately, but it is what we use in our research dialogue systems.

  • by Signal 11 (7608) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:35AM (#1318633)
    It angers me that Slashdot posts suggestions to "grab it while you can", in reference to patent violations. If a patent is truly violated, I would hope that any developers out there would honor that patent and discontinue their [potentially illegal] use of the code.

    This may have something to do with the credo many geeks subscribe to: That information should be free. Patents were originally invented to support truly innovative work where the author invested considerable time and energy into it. It was intended to make technology publically available so others could view and make improvements on the original idea. The tradeoff for a patent is that the public gets to view the work - and it is protected against other commercial enterprises using the patented invention for a period of n years, allowing the developer to recouperate the cost.

    This was the original intention, however in recent years the purpose of patents has been mutated and mulilated: they are now often used offensively in court battles to keep competing products from entering the marketplace, they are filed in the thousands each month, many for trival innovations - witness Amazon's "one-click" patent. Such things are obvious and trivial. The USPO should have rejected it out of hand, but due to a lack of expertise in the computing arena they are patenting everything and it is having massive legal repercussions. The net result is that companies with large amounts of resources can afford drawn-out legal battles or do massive cross-patenting to keep their legal butts covered. Individuals, however, cannot do this. We have no money, and thus are of no interest to the patent holder(s).

    This is why many people on slashdot are openly hostile towards patents and intellectual property - it is a matter of moral belief and civil disobedience that people copy the DeCSS code, or this code, and freely redistribute it. Many of us would have a higher respect if the system worked as designed and afforded individuals the same rights as corporations.

    So yes, it is infuriating: but is is for both sides because of a fundamental breakdown in the system.

  • by xyzzy (10685) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:42AM (#1318634) Homepage
    Two notes --

    It's unclear what training data, if any, is included with Sphinx-2. You need two types of training to run a speech recognizer: acoustic training, which tells the system the properties of the microphone, room, and language and/or dialect of speaker, and language model training, which tells the system what words are likely to be recognized.

    I've posted a question on SourceForge about what sort of data comes with this system, but without either data or the ability to re-train the system, the usefulness of the recognizer will be curtailed. If CMU has suppplied English microphone-bandwidth acoustics, forget about german over-the-phone recognition.

    As to patents, well, I wouldn't worry too much about that. The speech community has been openly publishing most of its results throught the DARPA programs for years. The body of prior art here is pretty high, and anyone claiming a patent would have an uphill battle. Also, Sphinx-2 is NOT CMU's latest and greatest, so that would work in favor of the open-source community.
  • by bbum (28021) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:33AM (#1318635) Homepage

    Sphinx was originally built on a combination of NeXT systems [for the DSP] with large scale analysis performed on a vast array of random Unix/Andrew workstations.

    I was the NeXT Campus Consultant at the time and, as such, had Sphinx [and numerous other cool projects] on my computer. Very cool stuff!

    When NeXT "officially" opened their Pittsburgh office [the office had been unoficially for quite some time], I demoed Sphinx to a bunch of Pittsburgh area business leaders and all the top management at NeXT-- including Steve Jobs [Amusing anecdote in that; but not one I'd feel comfortable sharing in this public of a forum].

    It was cool stuff-- worked great.

    It was also amusing being at CMU when they were building the original recognition libraries. Every week the school newspaper had an add for "seeking speakers for training of the Sphinx project"-- but every week they would put the call out for english speakers AND english-as-second-language-speakers with very specific first languages.

    Cool stuff! Good to see that it has survived.
  • by TheDullBlade (28998) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:22AM (#1318636)
    Software patents are wrong. Algorithms are math and math is not patentable. Any software patent granted is a failure of the patent office, and any upheld on challenge is a failure of the courts.

    The incentive of software patents is not needed to encourage people to develop and release new algorithms, but rather it interferes horribly with software development (at least whenever it is used). It stifles innovation, hampers interoperability, and maintains monopolies on reading certain data formats.

    Most of us aren't "pretty good about that sort of thing," we don't respect it because we think it's evil.

    The closest most of the free software community comes to "respecting" software patents is trying to avoid getting sued over them.
  • by Foogle (35117) on Monday January 31, 2000 @06:05AM (#1318637) Homepage
    It angers me that Slashdot posts suggestions to "grab it while you can", in reference to patent violations. If a patent is truly violated, I would hope that any developers out there would honor that patent and discontinue their [potentially illegal] use of the code.

    Yeah, in the case of DeCSS it is bogus and there is a cause to rally behind. I hardly see that as reason to try to screw over all software patent holders. And I think most of us are pretty good about that sort of thing, but I just felt it needed saying.

    Also, I understand that it wasn't a Slashdot person who actually wrote that comment, but I still don't how hard it would be to strip out little editorial comments like that. I'd hardly call it censorship.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by TheDullBlade (28998) on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:23AM (#1318638)
    Patents (like any IP) are not an inherent right, and their purpose is not to benefit the patent holder but to benefit society as a whole; they were created with the specific intent of encouraging innovation by trading full disclosure of the details of the patented mechanism in exchange for a short-term monopoly on its use.

    They were created (in their modern form) to prevent excessive secrecy and completely snuff out the stifling guild model of protecting trade secrets.

    Mathematics and facts of the natural sciences are specifically noted as unpatentable in patent law. This is because it was recognized that there was no need for patents in these fields; people already shared their discoveries freely in hopes of the recognition and prestige they could gain by it. Patents would only interfere with this and slow progress.

    Computer science is not only a branch of mathematics (algorithms are as old as the abacus, and were formalized long before the first programmable computer), but shows all the same behavior that makes it an unsuitable field for patents. People proudly explain their clever algorithms and data structures for no direct monetary gain. Allowing software patents has only interfered with the progress of the field.

    Practically every software developer breaks software patent laws. There are a great many software patents on simple, obvious, and common practices, and it is generally not feasible even to check whether you are infringing on anyone else's patents. It is also not economically feasible to legally challenge every bogus patent that one wishes to use. If one were to attempt to remain in full compliance at all times with patent law, it would be hundreds or thousands of times more expensive than the actual software development.

    Not only are software patents useless and harmful, they are impossible to obey or generally enforce, thus becoming merely another weapon for competition through litigation so whoever spends the most money on lawyers wins.
  • by oznoid (146706) on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:09AM (#1318639)
    CMU Sphinx has no patent issues. We posted it in good faith, and all the work is original, and internal. CMU has participated in the DARPA speech program since its inception, and this codebase is part of what had been used there all the while. The oldest files in the distribution contain comments from 1977.

    We don't believe there are any intellectual property issues with CMU Sphinx. Any patents issues that people might raise would have to overcome the considerable prior art at CMU, and all the code is from CMU, so there are no copyright issues.

    After years of public moneys going towards this project, we feel good about putting the code in a public place like sourceforge. It makes a public record of it, and we hope this will help the community to build new systems and applications, and to refine the code. We intend to release the acoustic trainer and Sphinx3 also. Sphinx2 is our real-time system (but S3 is getting there quickly).

  • by oznoid (146706) on Monday January 31, 2000 @07:40AM (#1318640)
    At this point, we only have one set of broadband, 4k state models with the release. Our next step is to get a couple of sets of generic models for broadband and for telephone speech, and make a system for tailoring the generic models to specific language models.

    We will also be releasing the trainer, and Sphinx 3, but it's coming out in steps. Sphinx 2 is the real-time engine, and while Sphinx 3 is more accurate, it's still slower.

    As far as releasing Data, we will be releasing whatever we can. It's OK for us to release models derived from data from, for instance, the LDC (linguistic data consortium) [upenn.edu], because their licensing terms explicitly allow it, but much of our data comes from other sources. We'll be able to put some data out, but i think we'd be better off creating a public repository of contributed data, explicitly stating that all contributed data will remain free.

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