Artificial Intelligence

Voice Recognition

AI continues to become increasingly a part of our daily lives. Voice recognition is is a key enabler of human-machine interface.
Although we often talk (or curse) at our computers, the thought of them talking back to us is somewhat disturbing. The ultimate computer with artificial intelligence was the HAL computer in the science fiction classic, Space Odyessey. HAL not only could understand and respond to human speech, but also determined what was best for the future of mankind, even if that meant sacrificing a few people along the way.

While the computers of today do not have the capabilities of HAL, there is a new era of computers incorporating the use of artificial intelligence. Humans can now communicate with computers through common everyday speech. The start of robotic sounding voices has evolved to a highly sophisticated voice technology system that had sales of over $1.2 billion in 2004. Voice technology systems, powered by artificial intelligence, are no longer just an emerging technology, but are being used by companies from BWM to Dell to Frigidaire to Wal-Mart.

Want a dog, but dont want to feed or walk it? Poo Chi is an interactive dog made by Tiger Electronics. The dog responds to commands through voice recognition. The company says that Poo Chi will grow and mature as you train him. Like a real dog, this one can learn tricks like lie down, sit and shake. However, unlike a real dog, these mechanical pets can also learn to sing songs. And, of course, they dont need to be taken outside, fed, or taken to the vet.

Want to talk to your car? Ford Motor Company has developed an advanced voice technology system so you can communicate with your car. New vehicles can be equipped with a conversational speech interface technology. The system uses a text-to-speech technology that sounds like you are talking to another person, and not a robot. What can you talk about with your car? Want to play music? The system asks what type of music and then will list what artists are available. Need to make a call? Tell your care to call Steven Smith and if there is more than one Steven Smith listed, the car will even ask you which one should be called. Also controlled through voice recognition is the navigation system, climate control, retractable roof and personalization preferences. Fords conversational speech technology currently has a vocabulary of over 50,000 words and unlike kids and pets, it speaks only when spoken to!

Speech recognition technology is also on the rise in the field of customer service call centers. Instead of pushing "1" for service or "2" for complaints; you now talk directly with the computer and learn your bank balance, when your last car payment was received and receiving answers to a wide variety of frequent customer service questions. Some of the companies now using speech recognition technology to answer customers questions are: Bank of America, Sprint, United Airlines, Sony, Sears, Ticketmaster and Nike.

The evolving hand of voice recognition technology is a blessing for those with disabilities. Various recognition software programs take the spoken word and translate it to the written word. Two such programs are IBM ViaVoice and Dragon Naturally Speaking,

As artificial intelligence keeps expanding its scope, voice recognition programs will become more prevalent throughout our everyday lives. Already standard in Microsoft's Widows XP is a voice recognition program that allows users to speak and Microsoft Word will type for you. It is not perfect, but it is quite amazing to experience. Many users do not even know the program is right there on their PC's.

As users do begin to take advantge of the technology and demand grows for better software, typing will become a thing of the past. Manual interfaces of all kinds will become a thing of the past. Viewers of Star Trek the next generation and Voyager are well aware of voice command for everything from making soup to controlling the Holo Deck. This method of interaction is well on its way to becoming reality.
But even this is a temporary stage in the evolution of man-machine interaction. One day, there will be a symbiosis between the two. Implanted chips will eliminate even the need for voice command.

Soon, even HAL may be a distant memory. A representation of the good old days when you actually had to talk to get anything done.

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