When you’re reading tech news it can be hard to understand the big picture, and why things develop the way they do. It’s not always clear how technologies such as voice recognition will fit into our world; especially for those who are used to texting and typing. But, there are pressures on developers to keep moving forward with the technology in new directions. Here are a few voice recognition technology uses that we see today; including the latest developments for accessibility, business, and entertainment.
Accessibility and Voice Recognition
The main understood benefit of voice recognition technology is to enable people with visual impairments to use navigate computers. As computers’ natural language processing gets more sophisticated and the online databases increases, voice recognition technology uses improves with it.
But of course visual impairment is not the only impediment to access and communication. Speech impediments are a big problem for many people, whether it be as a result of a stroke, stuttering, or any other speech-related difficulty. It’s a big enough market that a company called Voiceitt has worked out a way to translate difficult-to-understand speech into clear audio, on the fly, via an app on your phone. The project has huge public support and even won a big innovation prize recently, so expect to see it out in the wild soon. Read more.
Accessibility taken more broadly could include language barriers as well. Skype’s new service for real-time translation for conversations is an example of this. Globalized businesses, researchers, governments, human rights watchdogs, and basically anyone who wants to have a better idea of what is happening elsewhere in the world will be interested to see how well this software develops. But even individuals should see a benefit. The lack of a common language is a big disadvantage when you’re trying to make your voice heard, and this technology would make the global conversation more accessible for everyone.
Voice Recognition at Work
A key problem for the adoption of voice technologies has been background noise; it confuses programs that control the computer by voice, and makes dictation less than useful. With today’s open-plan, collaborative workplaces, it’s easy to see how using these technologies at work would be tricky. A branch of the US government also has some interest in this issue, probably for intelligence purposes(!). They’re offering a big prize to anyone who can solve the problem. When someone does figure out how to address this, expect to see more workplace applications in offices worldwide.
In some workplaces, the push to create efficiencies is so strong that they’re finding a way, despite the noise issues. eBay now has voice commands built into the workflow at their big warehouse. Fulfillment times are everything when you’re shopping online, and if they can shrink them by even a few minutes it makes a big difference to their bottom line. Read more.
Playing Games with Voice Recognition
Tech doesn’t really develop in interesting ways unless somebody is passionate enough about it to gamify it. Voice recognition technology hasn’t really seen that happen to its fullest potential yet; we’re still playing games with joysticks and keyboards for the most part. Still, some companies are trying. Games are becoming more complex, with rich and engaging stories. Using your voice to perform repetitive actions helps keep you in the narrative. Enter the Dragon Gaming Pack which teaches your characters to perform actions based on voice commands. I predict this will have to be almost perfect before it’s widely adopted, hardcore gamers are notoriously hard to please.
Pushing it further, there are games and toys that are completely voice controlled; on the simple end there are apps like Pah! that respond only to sounds – not terribly sophisticated, but asking users to consider a different way of interacting with the computer. The really big leap is in using voice recognition to simulate a relationship with the computer; this is showing up quite a bit in the development of Fur Real Friends and interactive game characters for kids. Since there is plenty of money to be made in marketing the hot new Christmas toy, expect this to be a rapid growth area for voice recognition. Read more.
Voice recognition technology is definitely finding its place in many areas and for a variety of applications. Have you spotted an interesting application of voice recognition in the wild, or have you tried out any of the new technologies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
For ongoing developments in voice recognition technology check out Speech Tech Magazine.