AI News, Do you understand the words that are comin outta my mouth? Voice ... artificial intelligence

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Speech Recognition Technology Overview

From R2-D2’s beep-booping in Star Wars to Samantha’s disembodied but soulful voice in Her, sci-fi writers have had a huge role to play in building expectations and predictions for what speech recognition could look like in our world.

Though this experiment didn’t technically involve voice processing in any form, the idea behind it remains to be part of the foundation of speech recognition technology: using natural language as input to trigger an action.

Thanks to the integration of new technologies such as cloud-based processing as well as ongoing data collection projects, these speech systems have continuously improved their ability to ‘hear’ and understand a wider variety of words, languages, and accents.

Surrounded by smartphones, smart cars, smart home appliances, voice assistants and more, it’s easy to take for granted how speech recognition technology actually works.

Voice input is simply the more efficient form of computing, says Mary Meeker in her annual Internet Trends report: humans can speak 150 words per minute on average, but can only type 40.

To have any level of effectiveness, these speech recognition systems have to be able to distinguish between homophones (words with the same pronunciation but different meanings), to learn the difference between proper names and separate words (“Tim Cook” is a person, not a request to find a cook named Tim), and more.

With the release of SiriKit, a development tool that lets third-party companies integrate with Siri, and HomePod, Apple’s own attempt at an intelligent speaker (following the success of Amazon Echo and Google Home), the voice assistant’s abilities become even more robust.

But, even today Siri remains notorious for misunderstanding voice commands, even going so far as to respond to a request for help with alcohol poisoning by providing a list of nearby liquor stores.

However when it comes to interacting with third-party apps, Siri is a little less robust compared to its competitors, working with only six types of apps: ride-hailing and sharing;

Because Apple is betting that “customers will not use voice commands without an experience similar to speaking with a human, and so it is limiting what Siri can do in order to make sure it works well”, reports Reuters.

Focusing on the system’s ability to handle follow-up questions, language translation, and revamping Siri’s voice to something more human-esque is definitely helping to iron out the voice assistant’s user experience.

In addition, Apple rules over its competitors in terms of availability by country and thus in Siri’s understanding of foreign accents. Siri is available in more than 30 countries and 20 languages –

Housed inside Amazon’s smash-hit Amazon Echo smart speaker as well as the newly released Echo Show (a voice-controlled tablet) and Echo Spot (a voice-controlled alarm clock), Alexa is one of the most popular voice-assistants out there today.

Instead, wagering that the voice assistant with the most “skills,” (its term for apps on its Echo assistant devices), “will gain a loyal following, even if it sometimes makes mistakes and takes more effort to use”.

Although some users have pegged Alexa’s word recognition rate as being a shade behind other voice platforms, the good news is that Alexa adapts to your voice over time, offsetting any issues it may have with your particular accent or dialect.

With the incentive to “Add Voice to Your Big Idea and Reach More Customers” (not to mention the ability to build for free in the cloud “no coding knowledge required”) it’s no wonder that developers are rushing to put content on the Skills platform.

Another huge selling point for Alexa is its integration with smart home devices such as cameras, door locks, entertainment systems, lighting and thermostats.

Based on a 26th-century artificially intelligent character in the Halo video game series, Cortana debuted in 2014 as part of Windows Phone 8.1, the next big update at the time for Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

This surpasses the 5.9% error rate reached in October 2016 by a group of researchers from Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research and puts its accuracy on par with professional human transcribers who have advantages like the ability to listen to text several times.

To avoid this, Microsoft spoke to a number of high-level personal assistants, finding that they all kept notebooks handy with key information of the person they were looking after.

From asking for a phrase to be translated into another language, to converting the number of sticks of butter in one cup, Google Assistant not only answers correctly, but also gives some additional context and cites a source website for the information.

“It will constantly be listening for trigger words, and will just do it — pop up a calendar, or ready a text message, or a browser that’s navigated to where you want to go”.

West claims, “Here, the aim is to not only recognize speech, but also to extract the meaning and intent of what has been said, enabling voice driven systems as a whole to react in an intelligent way, appropriate to the user’s needs.” Google Assistant, the company’s smart voice assistant, is now installed on 400 million devices, including the Google Home speakers and certain Google-powered Android phones.

With the support of millions of pre-existing users for the aforementioned tech giants, a simple software update is all it takes to integrate their subsequent voice-assistants world-wide.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features such as booking meetings or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email.

Not only does the company support the creation of other voice-activated technologies through their ASK and Smart Home API, but they were the original innovators to create a smart home speaker, a smart home speaker with a screen, and more.

If the fuel in your car is running low, your in-car speech system can not only inform you that you need to refuel, but also point out the nearest fuel station and ask whether you have a preference for a particular brand.

Many of the companies championing this idea do so with the intention of making gaming more accessible for visually and/or physically impaired people, as well as allowing players to immerse themselves further into gameplay through enabling yet another layer of integration.

In other words: it’ll be extremely challenging for game developers who will now have to account for hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of voice data collection, speech technology integration, testing and coding in order to retain their international audience.

However, despite all the goals tech companies are shooting for and the challenges they have to overcome along the way, there are already handfuls of video games out there who have believe the benefits outweigh the obstacles.

From Seaman starring a sarcastic man-fish brought to life by Leonard Nimoy’s voice in the late 1990s to Microsoft’s Mass Effect 3 released in 2012, the rise of speech technology in video games has only just begun.

While voice-assistants have been making a big splash in our personal lives, a recent study by VoiceLabs revealed that 30% of respondents noted smart home devices as their primary reason(s) for investing in an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

In late 2017, Amazon announced new voice-activated tools for the workplace, hoping that verbal commands such as, “Alexa, print my spreadsheet,” will expand to common office tasks.

From asking Cortana to please access company financial data from last week to last year, to asking your Google Assistant to please create a graph showcasing the year’s growth in click-through-rates –

voice could very well replace manually going through files on your computer just like electronic documents so easily replaced paper records just a short time ago.

The intense level of competition we’re seeing between these tech giants in the industry and the increasing prevalence of companies jumping in to create content in the space suggests that we still have a long road ahead of us.

Oral-B Genius X Review: Does A Toothbrush Really Need Artificial Intelligence?

Dentistry giant Oral-B originally announced its super-smart toothbrush, the Genius X, at CES earlier this year - claiming it to be the world’s smartest ever toothbrush.

Well, Oral-B claims what makes this AI-powered oral scrubber so advanced is that it's been trained via thousands of volunteers to assess different brushing styles and detect how it's used in the mouth to give pointers on improving how your brush your teeth.

The firm says this is important because 80% of people miss areas of their mouth when brushing their teeth, which if not improved, could lead to serious future dental issues.

When it was unveiled, Oral-B said its AI toothbrush would be smart enough to track where you are actually brushing (or not brushing enough) in your mouthand generate personalized feedback via a connected app to show you how to achieve better results.

Once the app is downloaded and it finds the Genius X via Bluetooth (and chosen your preferred LED-lit handle color), simply brush as you usually would, twice a day, and all your data will be syncedon your connected device.

What I found to be super clever was a red pressure sensor will light up within the app on the area of your teeth you're brushing to tell you when you’re brushing too hard.

I was quite taken aback at how accurately the Oral-B app knew where exactly theGenius X toothbrush was in my mouth at any given moment while brushing, and how it was quickly able to tell me that I was pressing too hard in certain areas.

Innovative Uses of Speech Recognition Today

Now, the uses of speech recognition range from the realms of finance, HR, marketing, and even public transportation with the goal of bringing down business costs, simplifying outdated processes, and increasing overall efficiency.

With impressive (and growing) improvements in natural language understanding and speech accuracy rates, the technology (backed by tandem improvements in machine learning, big data, cloud processing and artificial intelligence) has led to a growing appetite for companies to continue building voice-enabled experiences that go even beyond the private domain.

From asking Cortana to find a long-lost budget report, to asking your Google Assistant to please create a graph showcasing the year’s growth in click-through-rates –

Voice could very well replace manually going through files on your computer in the same way that electronic documents so easily replaced paper records just a short time ago.

Wherever you go, the lighting and temperature controls all perform in concert to optimise your comfort based on your pre-determined personal indicators. Ultimately, increasing overall office productivity.

In late 2017, Amazon announced new voice-activated tools for the workplace, hoping that verbal commands such as, “Alexa, print my spreadsheet,” would be introduced to replace common office tasks.

Dubbed Alexa for Business, users will be able to issue voice commands to begin video conferences, access calendars and print documents, manage individual and shared Echo devices, as well as a multitude of other common workplace functions.

Down the line, Microsoft officials have indicated a conference room where Cortana greets meeting participants, assists them in joining a scheduled meeting, transcribes meeting notes, recommends documents, and reminds people of the names and titles of meeting participants.

Users can utilize the ‘ask WeWork’ skill to extend a meeting room reservation, to see which meeting rooms are empty, or ask when the next meeting in that room is scheduled to start.

One of the main understood benefits for voice recognition technology is its ability to enable those with visual impairments the same access as those who aren’t visually impaired.

Based in Tel-Aviv, the company has raised $3.8 million (as of January 2018) in seed funding to help translate speech that’s not easily intelligible into clear sentences.

Once you have the app open, the software asks the user to compose and record short, useful sentences out loud such as, “I’m thirsty,” “Turn off the lights,” or “I’m cold”.

“Why tap on your smartphone to get your checking account balance when you can just ask Alexa?” As far as use cases go, banks see the value in voice-based banking in reducing the need for human customer service representatives and in turn, reducing staffing costs.

“By giving clients the ability to seamlessly and conveniently bank using voice commands, we’re delivering simple and innovative solutions.” At the same time, USAA announced the ability for Amazon Alexa to help USAA members access information about account balances, transactions, and spending patterns.

Designed to provide a conversational experience, the pilot program also aims to help answer some of the most frequent and basic questions and thus free up time for service representatives to answer more pressing member phone calls.

Customers can now check their account balances, hear payment due dates and the amount due, obtain account transaction history and make payments by speaking to an Amazon Alexa device.

With voice technology (and a little bit of artificial intelligence), HR professionals could simply ask Cortana to scour different recruiting databases and applicant pools with just a few words.

A recent study found that when shoppers are using Alexa to search for an unbranded item they haven’t previously purchased, they tend to be steered toward certain products.

However one thing’s for sure: just as it matters in Google’s search to rank for SEO, it’s going to matter a great deal in voice if you’re one of these first or second recommended products.

With the dream of allowing users to simply ask questions like, “When is the next bus to work?” or “How do I get to the gym?” your voice-assistant can utilize the existing transport network information stored online or on the cloud to best answer your questions.

With this slightly different form of speech recognition technology, developers are concentrating on training machines to recognize the appearance and shape of humans’ lips as they form words and sentences.

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