(1) Most technical SpeechTEK conference ever!
(2) Consequently - it was very useful to me as a professional (and inspirational!).
(3) "Conversational" is the word of the day and it's only going to get bigger.
Musings: In nature, the intersection of two ecosystems is a very fertile place: The shoreline, the edge of a pond, the place where hills begin. Creatures from both ecosystems are able to inhabit this borderland. This means that there are twice the opportunities for different kinds of creatures to mate, cross-pollinate, and maybe even eat each other. In a sense, SpeechTEK has always been a bit of a "borderlands." (Hopefully without the predation!) Technical people, industry practitioners, consultants and customers are all there. Every year there is a perpetual discussion about what SpeechTEK is - is it a place to buy and sell? To connect? Or is it more of an professional forum, to share knowledge?
I think some of this conference's strength is in its variety and ambiguity. Certainly there was a broad spectrum of people there this year - academics, customer experience people, traditional IVR people, bot people, and everyone else you could think of.
In my opinion there was a new sense of urgency at the conference this year. Our industry is changing very fast, and there were a lot of new faces, a lot of interesting new topics, and a lot of stuff going on. True "conversational" interfaces are starting to show up in more abundance, and people need to figure out a way to navigate among all the various vendors and toolsets.
Some of the sessions which I thought really stood out were Dr. Deborah Dahl's session on "Advanced Natural Language Processing with Today's Toolkits" which had a lot of good concrete information, and David Attwater's "Is It Time To Throw Your IVR in the Trash Can?" which generated a lively and interesting discussion.
All in all, I came away from the conference newly energized, with a long (but exciting) to-do list, and am looking forward to surfing the "shoreline" of the industry in the next year!
Update: Ok, and this video also happened. There might be someone you know in it. :)