INESC-ID, which in Portuguese stands for "Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering: Research and Development", is a non-profit institution dedicated to research in the field of information and communication technologies. Its mission is to develop tomorrow's technologies by excelling in research, today.
INESC-ID incorporates a body of highly qualified researchers, including more than 70 researchers holding a PhD and numerous post-graduate students. The majority of the PhD researchers are University professors, mostly from IST (Instituto Superior Técnico). This body of researchers, unique at national level in its scientific area, enables INESC-ID to act, in an effective way, in the different phases of the R&D process. The intense activity developed by INESC-ID resulted in the last 5 years in more than 1000 scientific papers published in specialized journals and international conferences, dozens of industrial prototypes and computer systems based on state-of-art technologies, and a number of patents and awards.
INESC-ID initiated activity in the year 2000 as a result of a reorganization of INESC, an institution which also played a pioneer role at the national level in the creation of SME's, with which it maintains close links. In 2004, INESC-ID was recognized by the Portuguese Government as an "Associated Laboratory", with intense activity in 5 thematic areas: Information and Decision Support Systems, Interactive Virtual Environments, Embedded Electronic Systems, Communications and Mobility Networks, and Spoken Language Processing.
The latter area of activity is carried out at L2F (Laboratório de Sistemas de Lingua Falada), a lab created in 2001, bringing together several research groups of INESC and independent researchers that could potentially add relevant contributions to the area of computational processing of spoken language for European Portuguese. The long term goal of L2F is to bridge the gap between natural spoken language and the underlying semantic information.
The lab includes around 30 researchers, most of them either Professors (8) or graduate students at IST, and 3 invited researchers from other universities in Portugal. Their background ranges from Electrical Engineering to Computer Science and Linguistics (the latter through the cooperation with the Center of Linguistics of the University of Lisbon – CLUL). This strongly interdisciplinary group is actively involved in many areas of spoken language research and development, including speech recognition, speech synthesis, speech coding, speech understanding, audio indexation, multimodal dialogue systems, language and dialect identification, and speech-to-speech machine translation, among others. By bringing together researchers from the area of natural language processing, the lab acquired expertise in areas such as natural language database interfaces, natural language generation, alternative syntactic and semantic processing paradigms, summarization, named entity retrieval, question answering, etc., which are also extremely relevant to the development of spoken language systems.
The expertise in these core technologies is integrated into 3 main research strands: semantic processing of multimedia contents, spoken/multimodal dialogue systems and speech-to-speech translation. The original focus on European Portuguese has now been broadened to encompass all varieties of Portuguese. Two application areas also deserve our special attention: e-learning and e-inclusion, namely in the development of alternative and augmentative communication tools for people with special needs.
Some important landmarks in L2F's activity were the development of the first Text-to-Speech synthesizer build from scratch for European Portuguese (DIXI) in 1991, and of the first version of our Large Vocabulary Continuous Speech Recognition system (AUDIMUS) for our language in 1997.
L2F is an institutional member of ISCA (International Speech Communication Association). Its work has been internationally recognized through close cooperation with other research centers in Europe and in the United States, as well as through the recent organization of the conference INTERSPEECH'2005.
L2F has actively cooperated with the national industry (Vodafone, Portugal Telecom, Microsoft Portugal, Rádio-Televisão Portuguesa (RTP), Porto Editora, Texto Editora). Several SMEs (CPCHS, DATELKA, Priberam, TECMIC, PROMOSOFT, ANDITEC. EDISOFT) have also shown their active interest in cooperating with L2F in the development of speech and language technologies.