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The Internet may not be making you smarter, but it may be getting smarter about you. Recent breakthroughs in speech-recognition technology point toward a future where Web crawlers recognize more of the words you speak. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis have developed a type of search engine that works for spoken words in television broadcasts. The program is also able to differentiate between speakers and scan thousands of hours of broadcasts in just a few milliseconds, the researchers assert.
COURTESY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY Cultural Preservation Saving a Tribal Language Cultural knowledge may disappear with dwindling native populations. When languages disappear, so do oral histories and cultural knowledge. As mi- nority indigenous cultures face rapidly dwindling populations, the future of their heritage grows dark. In America’s northern Plains, the Assini- boine tribe has shrunk to just 50 living members in Montana who are fluent in its hunters without benefit of horses. Unlike Assiniboine native language, Nakota. The Assiniboine sepa- other Plains tribes, the Assiniboine relied Bertha O’Watch (left), one of 50 re rated from the Sioux some 400 years ago, on pre-horse hunting techniques, such as maining fluent developing its own linguistic and cultural communal buffalo drives. Knowledge speakers of the forms, according to Raymond DeMallie, an about their unique survival strategies could tribe’s Nakota lan Indiana University anthropology professor. thus be preserved in the oral histories and guage, offers her DeMallie is leading a project to preserve stories collected. stories to linguistic the oral history of the tribe, with plans to anthropologist publish a dictionary of the language and Source: Indiana University, www.indiana.edu. Linda Cumberland, a two volumes transcribing oral histories See also a comparison of vocabulary words in the member of the Indi that were recorded nearly 25 years ago. Siouan language family at www.native-languages.org/ ana University The Assiniboine tribe had long been ne- famsio_words.htm. American Indian Studies Research In glected by linguists and anthropologists stitute team. because it was believed to have been closely related to the Sioux; it was also in- correctly identified with the Stoneys of Information Technology Canada, according to DeMallie. This mis- taken identity led to neglect by scholars pursuing the larger and better known in- A Search Engine digenous cultures. Armed with new digital audio technolo- That Listens gies that can visually represent sounds for precise analysis, DeMallie and his team Breakthrough in computer speech-recognition. will be able to replay difficult passages of the recorded material, consult with other The Internet may not be making us experts, and render more accurate transla- smarter, but it may be getting smarter tions. about us. Recent breakthroughs in speech- The Assiniboine traveled farther north recognition technology point toward a than did the Sioux, and the culture was future where Web crawlers recognize more greatly influenced through intermarriage of the words we speak. with the Cree tribe and with French and Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute Canadian fur traders, DeMallie explains. for Intelligent Analysis have developed a The oral culture is rich with stories incor- type of search engine that works for spo- porating European folktales. ken words in television broadcasts. Other But of particular importance to cultural similar speech-recognition programs at- anthropologists is the effect of one of the tempt to match what the system hears to tribe’s key distinctions: They survived as words stored in a digital database. The THE FUTURIST January-February 2010 www.wfs.org 9 protein in the human diet, and they are rich in fiber and polyphenols. World Trends & Forecasts The researchers stud- ied six wild species of lu- pins, focusing on their
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