Speech recognition and natural language technology apparently attract the big bucks. Ginger Software, a speech technology developer announced recently an additional round of $5.4 million funding, which adds to a round six months ago that netted the company $6.3 million. Since the company’s founding, Ginger Software has raised close to $21 million.
The round was led by two high-profile backers, Horizon Ventures and Harbor Pacific Capital.
“The Ginger team has developed a very clever natural language processing platform that breaks the context barrier, can understand the probable meaning of a written sentence and interpret the most probable intent of the user,” Horizon Ventures said in a press release. “This is not a simple task by any means, and their tech puts Ginger into a very select group of companies leading the intersection of artificial intelligence and learning. “
The company’s current product is a desktop application called Ginger. You download and install it for free and run it in conjunction with any application on your computer that requires word processing. Simply highlight a block of text, hit F2, and Ginger analyzes and corrects mistakes that typical spell-check might miss. If you typed “you’re” when you really meant “your”, Ginger deduces the true meaning of your sentence and corrects it. This is a useful product for people who struggle with writing or speak English as a second language. If you’re interested in seeing how it works without installing the program, check out Ginger’s online proofreading service instead.
From an education standpoint, Ginger works as a basic guide, but it is easy to understand why teachers may caution against the overuse of such technology. In a time where digital communication is having adverse effects on many students’ grammar skills, a total dependence on a utility such as Ginger could further diminish a student’s writing skills.
But that’s not to say that Ginger can’t be helpful. We all use spell-check, and we all send text messages with strange errors, some of which we unfortunately can’t simply attribute to “that damn Autocorrect.” (Ginger Software currently doesn’t have a mobile version if its product, but the company’s CEO said they are heading in that direction.)
Ginger’s natural speech technology makes it a more robust correcting tool than Microsoft Word (which wouldn’t actually fix the above example of “you’re” and “your”), making it a promising piece of software from a well-funded company that appears to have a bright future. But Ginger, like most education technology tools, should be used in conjunction with more traditional learning methods that teach a person how to write from a pedagogical standpoint.