Khushbu Jamshedji has been struggling to use the voice-feature on her laptop. Numerous attempts to open the Angry Birds game, shut down the computer and open a Word document using voice commands have been met with failure. “The voice-assistant does not understand what I say. It shows up other random words when I ask for something. Ultimately it asks me to connect to the internet to find a suitable match for what I am saying,” quips Jamshedji.

The latest versions of operating systems are integrated with voice recognition features. This feature allows a user to control the device using his voice, instead of using keys. Microsoft has integrated Windows Vista and Windows 7 with voice capabilities. Even Apple’s iPad comes integrated with the speech recognition feature.

A global industry survey shows that the voice recognition technologies market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8 per cent between 2010 and

2015. The total market is expected to reach $58.4 by 2015.

Several phones and tablets have this voice feature. Apple’s voice assistant is called Siri. It is an advanced voice recognition software that is available in the latest models of the iPhones. BlackBerry’s speech recognition software allows users to check signal strength, call a contact and even check battery usage.

What may seem like an add-on, attractive feature is actually proving to be extremely difficult for most of us. These voice assistants respond to a pre-installed accent. The difference in our pronunciation and diction makes it very difficult for the software to understand the kind of commands that we are giving it. Although these softwares have to be “trained” to understand our diction and pronunciation, it is very difficult to reach a level where the device is completely trained to understand the Indian accent.

To help the computer understand the voice commands, people have started training themselves instead of training the computer. There are a number of applications available in online application stores which can teach people foreign accents. Speech recognition is also available in a multiplicity of languages like English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.

Applications like ‘Speak like an American’ and ‘American accent tips’ are available on online android store Google Play. A number of applications that help improve pronunciation are also available in application stores. Pronunciation Checker and Pronunciation Controller apps also help in correcting pronunciations.

An application called Vlingo combines voice recognition technology with the intelligence to listen to what you speak. It even reads incoming text and email messages aloud.

In its latest operating system, Apple has launched an improved Siri. It can understand more languages and can even post on Facebook and Twitter accounts. In its improved voice recognition tool, Apple has launched Eyes Free. Apple is working with car manufacturers to integrate Siri into certain voice control systems.

A software that people are installing in their Windows computers is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It has a Mac version also which is called Dragon dictate. To enable faster and more efficient voice assistance, it is advised that the interactions take place in a quiet environment. A noisy environment could lead to mixing-up of voices leading to a confused response.

An interesting voice service introduced by Google Chrome is ‘Online Diction.’ One can narrate long sentences and Chrome's built-in speech recognition will transcribe them.

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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