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Speech recognition technology allows computers to take spoken audio, interpret it and generate text from it. But how do computers understand human speech? The short answer is…the wonder of signal processing. Speech is simply a series of sound waves created by our vocal chords when they cause air to vibrate around them. These soundwaves are recorded by a microphone, and then converted into an electrical signal. The signal is then processed using advanced signal processing technologies, isolating syllables and words. Over time, the computer can learn to understand speech from experience, thanks to incredible recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. But signal processing is what makes it all possible.
So, what are the benefits of speech recognition technology? Why, exactly, do we need computers to understand our speech when typing is usually faster (and quieter)? Speech is a natural interface for many programs that don’t run on computers, which are becoming more common. Here are some important ways in which speech recognition technology plays a vital role in people’s lives.
Talking to Robots: You might not think that speaking with robots is a common activity. But robots are increasingly being employed in roles once performed by humans, including in conversation and interface. For example, firms are already exploring using robots and software to perform initial job interviews. As interviews must be conversational, it’s essential that the robot can interpret what the interviewee is saying. That requires speech recognition technology.
Controlling Digital Devices: Digital personal assistants like Alexa and Google Home obviously require verbal communication between humans and computers. They are also great examples of how computers use machine learning to better understand your speech over time through experience. But in order to do so, speech recognition technology, enabled by signal processing, is key.
Aiding the Visually- and Hearing-Impaired: There are many people with visual impairments who rely on screen readers and text-to-speech dictation systems. And converting audio into text can be a critical communication tool for the hearing-impaired.
Enabling Hands Free Technology: When your eyes and hands are busy, such as when you’re driving, speech is incredibly useful. Being able to communicate with Apple’s Siri or Google Maps to take you where you need to go reduces your chances of getting lost and removes the need to pull over and navigate a phone or read a map.
Why Speech Recognition Technology is a Growth Skillset: Speech recognition technology is already a part of our everyday lives, but for now is still limited to relatively simple commands. As the technology advances, researchers will be able to create more intelligent systems that understand conversational speech (remember the robot job interviewers?). One day, you will be able to talk to your computer the way you would talk to any human, and it will be able to transmit reasoned responses back to you. All this will be made possible by signal processing technologies. The number of specialists needed in this field are growing, and many companies are looking for talented people who want to be a part of it. Processing, interpreting and understanding a speech signal is the key to many powerful new technologies and methods of communication. Given current trends, speech recognition technology will be a fast-growing (and world-changing) subset of signal processing for years to come.