Voice-activated internet is getting its act together!
Scientists from the two worlds of acoustics and speech recognition have joined forces in an EU-funded project to develop a compact system - software and hardware - for voice-based access to web applications in today's smart homes. With groundbreaking results, people are listening to what they have to say.
© wladimir1804 #172925126, source: fotolia.com, 2018
As web-enabled electronics become more affordable, researchers are exploring ways to further automate tasks using more responsive voice controls for heating, lighting and communicating within the home environment. Furthermore, such smart home applications are increasingly important for people with disabilities and the elderly, helping them with everyday tasks as well as emergency situations.
However, to be effective, these hands-free, voice-enabled systems must be able to hear and respond appropriately to natural speech commands issued even over some distance. The EU-funded LISTEN project is tackling this challenge by bringing together specialists in acoustic sensors and automatic speech-recognition.
Through research and staff exchanges and a focus on innovation, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie project has developed and successfully demonstrated a prototype hands-free, speech-capture system operating as a wireless acoustic sensor network (WASN). It has been optimised to access internet applications and control typical web-enabled, smart-home automation tasks.
Command and control centre
Combining hardware and software, the speech-recognition system currently responds to four languages English, German, Greek and Italian. An array of eight microphones and sensors are packed into a saucer-sized unit which can be tuned to block out unwanted noise or instructions, for example from outside the room or home.
Paired with the home network, the voice pick-up unit can relay commands to switch lights on or off, raise or close blinds together with an electronic motor and a number of other potential web-enabled, smart-home applications. For example, a command to dim the lights to a romantic level lowers them by 50 %.
The system can also perform regular online actions like web search, social media interaction, email dictation and teleconferencing no need to huddle around the microphone or computer, or to use a headset. With several innovations to show off, the ongoing project has gained significant media attention, including a CNN and IDW story in the partner countries, Greece and Germany respectively.
The LISTEN project is part of the REA smart cities clustering event which will be presented at the EuroScience Open Forum 2018, 9-14 July, in Toulouse, France.