Microsoft claims to have made a significant breakthrough in speech recognition that could result in a artificially intelligent assistant that is better at transcribing speech than a human being.

Its latest research into conversational transcription has resulted in technology that on a par with humans in recognising words as part of free-flowing speech. The next stage is to go one better.

The new tech understands a conversation with just a 5.9 per cent error rate. That's "about equal" to people who were asked to transcribe the same conversation. It is also the lowest error rate recorded by AI software against the industry standard Switchboard speech recognition task.

Microsoft says that the research will be used to enhance tools that use speech recognition, including Xbox and Cortana.

"Even five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought we could have achieved this. I just wouldn’t have thought it would be possible," said Harry Shum, executive vice president of the company's artificial intelligence and research group.

"This will make Cortana more powerful, making a truly intelligent assistant possible," he added.

Hopefully, it'll also make transcribing our interviews a darn sight easier - something all journalists, online or otherwise, would certainly agree.

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