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SpeechWorks was a company founded in Boston in 1994 by speech recognition pioneer Mike Phillips and Bill O’Farrell. The Boston-based company developed and supported speech-related computer software. Originally known as Applied Language Technologies, SpeechWorks went public in 2000 and tripled its value. ScanSoft (now Nuance Communications) acquired SpeechWorks in 2003.[1]

The company's main focus was bringing speech recognition solutions to phone systems. Carriers and voice portals were able to use these speech-activated services to direct consumer calls, conduct transactions, and obtain information.[2] SpeechWorks technology was uniquely suited for these applications because it was the first software that offered a human-sounding voice that asked callers questions which they could verbally answer, allowed callers to interrupt the software before it concluded reciting a list of options, and could learn from previous calls in order to add new vocabulary to its database.[3]

These services were largely successful: SpeechWorks client Thrifty car rentals used this service to give pricing information to callers, and 90% of surveyed customers who interacted with it expressed that the service either met or exceeded their ease of use expectations.[4]

SpeechWorks’ clients were typically in the financial services, telecommunications, and travel industries, and included FedEx, United Airlines, Amtrak, Thrifty car rentals, and others. SpeechWorks also developed “multi-modal” and text-to-speech technology as early as 2001 that enabled people to use spoken commands to navigate cell phones.[1]

Speechify Solo[edit]

Speechify Solo was a text-to-speech software released by Speechworks in 2002. Speechify Solo featured a natural, human-sounding speaking voice that could read text-based information aloud, and personalize messages for individual users. It could be applied in the fields of hand-held computing, home entertainment, and the automotive industries.[5]

In early 2003, the National Weather Service implemented major voice improvements using Speechify, to be heard on NOAA Weather Radio. In 2016, these were replaced by a new voice associated with a new system.

Relationship with AOL[edit]

In 2000, America Online, Inc, also known as AOL, released "AOL by Phone," a service that enabled AOL users to check their e-mail and access other AOL features through spoken commands from any telephone. This service was developed in partnership with Quack.com, a voice portal company owned by AOL. Quack.com utilized SpeechWorks’ Speechify software to power the service's voice recognition capabilities.[6] Two years later, in 2002, AOL purchased $5 million of SpeechWorks stock, equivalent to 1% of the company.[7]


SpeechWorks purchased Ithaca based Eloquent Technologies, Inc. in 2000 for $17 million.[8]


  1. ^ a b Kirsner, Scott (2012-05-25). "Former SpeechWorks chief executive out raising money for Xtone, startup that wants to speech-enable mobile apps". Boston.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  2. ^ "SpeechWorks International, Inc.: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Businessweek.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Thrifty speaks to its customers: car rental agency deploys speech recognition to improve customer experience while reducing costs". September 2002.
  4. ^ "Thrifty and SpeechWorks Bring Speech Recognition to 1-800-Thrifty". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  5. ^ "SpeechWorks Introduces Speechify Solo Text–to–Speech Engine; A High Quality Solution for the Automotive and Device Market". Design And Reuse. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  6. ^ "Look Who's Talking: America Online Launches 'AOL By Phone' With Access To E-Mail By Simple Voice Commands | Time Warner Inc". Time Warner. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  7. ^ "AOL invests in speech-recognition company - CNET". CNET. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  8. ^ "SpeechWorks to acquire Eloquent Technology - Boston Business Journal". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 2016-01-20.