Over the past few years, tremendous improvements have been made in the speech recognition technology. Google, Apple and Microsoft have developed their own intelligent personal assistants namely Google now, Siri and Cortana. Talking with computers is the future of computing because it is the most natural way for people to communicate.
Google's documentary, Behind the Mic: The Science of Talking With Computers explores humanity's obsession with conversing with machines and the challenges of developing language learning algorithms. It is a fascinating and informative short film about speech recognition, language understanding, neural networks, and using our voices to communicate with the technology around us. The film features interviews with: Ray Kurzweil, Alison Gopnik, Francoise Beaufays, Bill Byrne, Jeff Dean, Roberto Pieraccini, and Geoffrey Hinton. Google lets us know that although we've travelled quite a bit on the path to speech recognition, we still have much to go before we talk to computers like in Star Trek.
Google is working very hard to teach computers to understand what we say. Now, we don't just have a subsidiary of search that is set to overshadow it, i.e. voice search. Now, we have spoken commands for a lot of the main things we do with our rapidly learning machines: a weather query, launching an app, a call, a booking, or a purchase and other speech-to-text. Google wants to tackle the next level of speech recognition, which is getting into understanding meaning. This is incredibly difficult, because of the many subtleties of tone, sarcasm, irony, semantics, accents, and even physical cues, like facial expressions.
We can hope that major improvements take place in speech recognition in the coming years so that we can talk to computers like in Star Trek.
For additional reading, here's an intro natural language processing, computational linguistics and speech recognition by Daniel Jurafsky and James H. Martin: www.cs.colorado.edu/~martin/SLP/Updates/1.pdf