Bill Gates’ predictions about speech recognition: a historical review

December 30th, 2005

Bill Gates, 26 September 1997: “When putting this speech together, I’m thinking, boy, in the last 12 months I’ve given about 100 speeches. And I’m very careful to try never to say the same thing twice.”

Bill Gates, 1 October 1997: “In this 10-year time frame, I believe that we’ll not only be using the keyboard and the mouse to interact, but during that time we will have perfected speech recognition and speech output well enough that those will become a standard part of the interface.”

Bill Gates, 6 October 1997: “The PC five years from now — you won’t recognize it, because speech will have come into the interface, the screen will be a flat screen, the performance will be 20 times what it is today.”

Bill Gates, 7 October 1997: “What I am saying is that I’m optimistic enough to believe that within the next decade, we will see progress to a level that for things like dealing with data in a spreadsheet or text in a word processor, or navigating the Internet, you will find the speech interface has enough accuracy that it becomes a primary way of interacting with the machine.”

Bill Gates, 16 November 1997: “I talked about some recent advances that really have me excited. Here are some that are literally within the next few years. Speech recognition. A big, big breakthrough.”

Bill Gates, 10 January 1998: “When we start working on speech recognition, or artificial intelligence software, we know it’s going to be five to ten years before that’s having a major impact.”

Bill Gates, 27 January 1998: “In the next five years, in some ways there aren’t going to be that many surprises. Windows will have two very, very major releases-Windows in that time frame. You will start to see speech become a standard part of the interface.”

Bill Gates, 9 February 1998: “And the power that we’re talking about there, you know, there’s no doubt that machine is good enough for speech recognition, visual recognition, learning. I mean, even the machines six to eight years out, I feel very comfortable will be doing all of those things.”

Bill Gates, 4 March 1998: “We’re looking at speech is an add-on today, but we’re looking in this two to three year timeframe, whether we could put it in. Speech synthesis has gotten quite good, and our work has really put us out in the forefront of that. But we have not gone and put the speech recognition in.”

Bill Gates, 26 March 1998: “Well, the speech recognition will start off like most features do, as an add-on product, and you’re seeing a couple of those out there today … I think by next year, we’ll have a very rich API and then in the next major round of Windows, will have it as an optional but not required capability, and then maybe the major round after that will simply rely on it as the primary interface.”

Bill Gates, 25 June 1998: “The breakthroughs in interaction aren’t going to come in the next three years. We’ll have some additional speech recognition, but it won’t be the center of the interface. But in the three-to-six-year timeframe, I feel very confident that that will be not only a standard thing, but built into the operating system, and something that applications will sit on top of and take advantage of.”

Bill Gates, 24 March 1999: “Speech recognition … I don’t think you’ll see dictation as something that most people will use in the next couple of years. The extra processing power, getting the extra memory I think has us on a track to provide that, but for most people, I think it will be more like a five-year time frame before that’s a standard way of interacting.”

Bill Gates, 24 March 1999: “I also think speech recognition, although we’ve been talking about it for decades, is finally going to get to the point where it really is quite usable. That could be anywhere from, say, two to six years away, and the extra power, the software that understands the grammar, will help get us over the threshold where this is commonplace.”

Bill Gates, 26 March 1999: “Speech recognition will be part of the interface. That has been a tough problem because people are very demanding of high quality. The keyboard is not that bad. So, even though we are going to have this extra speed, probably we are four or five years away from that being the typical interface.”

Bill Gates, 10 March 2000: “You know, when I was a student at Harvard, the defense DARPA group was giving out money to universities that said, yes, in three years we’ll have great speech recognition … And so the frontiers that are out there — great handwriting recognition, great speech recognition, even having the computer have a visual capability so it can see who’s coming in, what’s going on, all of those things undoubtedly will be solved in the next decade.”

Bill Gates, 26 March 2001: “Because of where we’re going with real-time communications, including the instant messaging that will be included in Windows itself, voice annotation, voice communication and speech recognition are becoming mainstream capabilities. And so we believe that virtually all PCs should have that right out of the box.”

Bill Gates, 17 April 2002: “Likewise, in areas like speech recognition we have seen companies come and go. It’s a very tough problem, but it will yield itself to breakthroughs that will make that just common sense for every computer over the next five years.”

Bill Gates, 28 July 2003: “It’s all the dreams of software, of vision and speech recognition and business intelligence; those are within our grasp. Some people might say it’s three years, some people might say it’s 10 years to solve those things, but by and large, those very interesting things, put aside machine learning, the very interesting tool-based things, I think it’s very clear that we’re on a track to make some incredible advances.”

Bill Gates, 25 February 2004: “We believe that speech over the next several years will be ready for primetime.”

Bill Gates, 25 February 2004: “Now, with speech it’s not as easy. Speech is another one that will be solved, and will be solved for a broad range of applications within this decade.”

Bill Gates, 24 March 2004: “And the Speech Server that we’re announcing, and shipping this week, is about eliminating that problem, making it easy to write server-based voice recognition for domain-specific grammars … very, very modest … Now, Microsoft is very committed to speech. We see this as something that over the rest of this decade will simply become more and more mainstream.”

Bill Gates, 10 May 2005: “Windows Mobile 5.0 brings in some speech recognition capabilities and we see that for small command sets as being really ready today, something that is very powerful.”

Bill Gates, 28 July 2005: “And yet the really interesting problems — vision, speech, ink, security, learning — all these things, we’re going to have big breakthroughs on in the next 10 years.”

Bill Gates, 13 September 2005: “With microphones, things like speech recognition will eventually be commonplace.”

Bill Gates, 14 September 2005: “We totally believe speech recognition will go mainstream somewhere over the next decade.”

Bill Gates, 14 October 2005: “Another big change you’ll see is that we’ll have microphones on PCs and the speech recognition will be built-in as a standard feature. And that’s probably two to three years from now that that really becomes mainstream…”

Harry G Frankfurt, On bullshit: “Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.”