Speech Recognition

Of the emerging computer technologies today, speech recognition has the potential to provide a strong impact in a few years. Let us look at the different applications, features, limitations, and promise of speech recognition in the 21st century.

1. Defining Speech Recognition

Speech recognition is the ability of a computer to break down human spoken words to binary code understandable by the computer. Most people have the idea that speech recognition involves the computer having a set of electronic ears to acknowledge your message. Actually, speech recognition serves as a translator, so the computer can act on voice commands and enhance the experience of the user.

Speech recognition functions on many levels. As an outgrowth of the concept, voice recognition or speaker recognition is the attempt of the computer to identify the speaker based on the tone of the speaker's voice. Thus, we can say that speech recognition is one of the emerging technologies that allow us to input commands and data to the computer - much like other input interfaces such as keyboard, mouse, and touch screen commands.

This interface opens many doors for applications in everyday computing. It gives us a new way of interacting with our computer while cutting the time between data input. For example, having speech recognition software on your cell phone will allow you to make a call by blurting out the name of your desired contact. Speech recognition defeats the purpose of current cell phone features such as speed dial. The version of the technology that is in the market is significantly limited. However, speech recognition has taken a lot of strides from its specialized applications in the military and health care to house automation and mobile computing.

2. Speech Recognition - Breaking The Mass Market

Speech recognition has come a long way from a technology used in complicated machines and industrial devices to the everyday mass product. The advancement of speech recognition is related to the evolution of faster computers, signaling that highly advanced speech recognition is just a matter of time. The breakthrough of speech recognition from engineering laboratories to specialized applications came in the 1970's with continuous recognition - which means that humans do not need to pause between words. As this developed, the technology slowly gained ground to the mainstream.

The first industry to pick up speech recognition software as a commercial application was the health care industry. At the start of the transition, doctors thought that they could use this technology to replace traditional medical transcription. This idea did not pan out well since doctors are so impatient with the mundane methods just to work with these softwares that they prefer not to be bothered. At the same time, doctors and health professional are not comfortable with the idea of having a computer transcribe critical medical information that human transcriptionists do perfectly.

Still, faster computers and computing mobility allowed speech recognition to appear on cell phones, cars, and personal computers. Speech recognition added a level of simplicity for everyday users that do not peg high expectations compared to the health care industry. After all, it won't cost a life if you get a number wrong with your voice recognition software. With the aggressive campaign of companies like Microsoft and their Vista OS, as well as mobile operating systems, speech recognition technology is slowly being absorbed by today's lifestyle.

3. Applications Of Speech Recognition Software

The functions and features of speech recognition technology are highly extensible. From bare speech recognition software, users and programmers can customize the application to their preference. The two main functions of speech recognition are dictation and computer control. There are various speech to text applications that can convert your speech into word documents with high accuracy. Speech recognition is also used to control your computer as you give them basic to advanced instructions. With a word, you can ask your computer to shut down, open a program, dial, save a website, and carry out similar commands. The value of controlling your computer through speech recognition is that you have two free hands at your disposal to multi task. That is why speech recognition is optimized for activities such as driving. Speech recognition is also used in the military for air force pilots.

This emerging technology is also useful for disabled people. By extending the interface of the computer to the disabled, they are given the freedom to interact with their computer and allow them to do things with their computer that they could not have done with a keyboard or a mouse. You can find many functions of speech recognition software in the airline industry, military, health care, education, office operations, and more.

4. A Look At Hands-Free Computing

As the term suggests, hands-free computing is a method of interacting with a computer without the use of conventional input devices such as keyboard and mouse. This is possible with the continuing development of speech recognition. Hands-free computing is useful for both able and disabled users. Able users find hands-free computing as a layer of enhancement that increases one's productivity. At the same time, hands-free computing allows disabled users to have more options to interact with users and enrich their computing experience.

Hands-free computing can be configured to match the commands of the user. Computers are trained to recognize specific commands to increase the familiarity of the user to the speech recognition software. Hands-free computing is a form of a new concept called assistive technology, as it increases the value of computers from a tool for production to near partners in everyday operation and transactions. Assistive technology spurred by speech recognition gives professionals a set of free hands to be more effective. It is a continually evolving technology geared to increase the accessibility of the population to computers on a whole new level.

5. Talking To Your Home

One trendy application of speech recognition software is home automation. Home automation applies different techniques within the walls of your home for your comfort and security. If you have a fully wired house controlled by computers, you can install speech recognition software to control and improve your home. The basic features of an automated home focuses on light and climate control, control of locks and doors, windows, and security and surveillance systems. Automated homes can also be extended to multimedia equipment, watering of plants, pet feeding, and managing a garage. This home building method allows residents with deep pockets to have a full house of gadgets that respond well to their preferred living space.

Aside from speech recognition, an automated home can also be managed by controllers, sensors, and actuators. For example, if you walk into a room, the sensor detects your presence as it automatically opens the light. Speech recognition can also be used to have access into your home without keys. With wireless technology, appliances can communicate with each other to give you the preset living condition that you desire. As the trend moves toward home automation, we will be seeing a larger role from speech recognition technology.

6. Speech Recognition And Mobility

A popular feature in cell phones is voice dialing. From this basic function, the line of smart phones have included voice recognition to increase the productivity of your mobile device. The latest cell phone models implement voice dialing by having the user press a key to record their voice. If you need to call your contact, you only need to press the key and state their name. Your cell phone does the rest.

Voice dialing is a hint of what speech recognition can do in the big picture of mobile trends. As computers fit into mobile devices, and as notebooks shrink to minuscule sizes, we can see the extension of this technology amass a lot of features to improve our lifestyle. Do you need a weather update? You can talk to your cell phone, and it will be ready to give you this information.

Smart GPS devices also have this feature. Some GPS devices in vehicles have speech recognition features, so the driver can focus on what he should do best. By stating the place where you want to go, the GPS can be programmed to find your destination without touching anything.

7. Speech Recognition For The Disabled

The biggest impact of speech recognition relies on education particularly for the benefit of disabled students. Students with physical disabilities that restrict them from controlling a computer find themselves at a disadvantage. With speech recognition, they have an efficient tool to control the computer and be just as productive as their able counterparts. Speech recognition is used to convert their thoughts into text. For students with learning disabilities, having their thoughts said out loud and then written in the computer reinforces their recall for vocabulary and usage.

Speech recognition is also a boon for disabled adults. Computers open up a wide array of possibilities that can add to their quality of life. There is no reason for them not to engage in online discussions, chats, blogs, video games, and more. The goal of speech recognition is to improve the user experience of disabled individuals and increase the accessibility of computers to a wider population. Speech recognition and other accessibility tools essentially provide a level playing field. We can see that the benefits of speech recognition are far and wide.

8. Speech Recognition And Health Care

The health care industry is the primary consumer of this technology. Until today, they recognize speech recognition as a tool that not only improves a physician's productivity, but a developed technology that provides accurate results. In an arena of malpractice suits, having accurate records is critical. Various health workers find different uses for speech recognition, making it a widely used tool for doctors, nurses, medical transcriptionists, pharmacists, and hospital administrators.

Health professionals use this technology for dictation and transcription. While the technology is not yet in a stage where it can replace typists, there are other reasons why doctors prefer to use speech recognition software. These reasons range from fear of developing RSIs to doctors' indifference to typing amidst their busy schedules.

Doctors might be too busy to digest cutting-edge technology. Yet, even doctors who like the traditional workflow will find that speech recognition technology frees up time for more critical work. They can use speech recognition to develop their transcriptions, and then hire a proofreader to correct the lapses of the software. This approach can save a lot of money.

Many are in agreement that speech recognition can help nudge the health care system in the right direction. With the toll and stress of the profession, doctors can give themselves an edge when undergoing procedures knowing that they have reliable and accessible data. At the same time, the input of these data is always a challenge that doctors cannot be bothered with. That is why speech recognition is a burgeoning industry due to the significant demand for these devices and its derivatives.

9. The Limitations Of Speech Recognition

Speech recognition is certainly a promising technology set to change how we look at computers and how we react to them. However, the technology has not yet crossed into a tool that people can use dynamically. It will take a few years for speech recognition to replace the keyboard and mouse, or at least modify our computing practices.

Speech recognition still has many flaws and limitations. These limitations are rooted to the shortcomings of artificial intelligence. This technology serves as a translator to certain commands, since computers cannot filter the context or the motivation of the command. At the same time, language processing is easier said than done. There is still the reality that mainstream computers will be hard pressed to process multiple sentences and recognize commands easily. Most speech recognition software needs to be configured in order to work properly, and it should recognize the tone of your voice first and save it to their data bank before it can function properly. However, computing trends are expected to change in a few short years, and we might see the introduction of speech recognition as an integral part of computing experience, not just in industries, but also inside our homes.
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