How does voice recognition actually work; here’s what you need to know

Digital voice assistants are getting more and more popular, changing the way we search, shop and access online services. Devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home have started to become an integral part of every smart home or office, with voice-enabled smart speakers predicted to reach 55% of US households by 2022.

Their popularity is derived from the numerous benefits they provide to our professional and personal lives. Using voice recognition software, we can quickly respond to emails, record speeches, surf the internet, get the latest weather updates and get the latest news, to name but a few. While, for those with physical and visual impairments, this software can assist with everyday tasks, such as reading out messages, playing music and adjusting the lighting and thermostat in the home.

What is voice recognition software?

Put simply, voice recognition is an alternative to typing on a keyboard. You talk to a computer or a smartphone and words ‘magically’ appear on a screen. The software behind this technology ‘takes’ the soundwaves in the air and translates them into their digital representation, which a computer or a smart device can understand. Voice recognition is part of the family of ‘behavioral biometrics’, used to authenticate identity and can be used as an alternative to the traditional PIN and password.

How does it work?

Although this new type of technology has become widely available to the public, the question of how it works is still frequently asked. Voice recognition software programs work by analyzing sounds and performing tasks based on the information that is given to them via voice.

Today’s smartphones and connected devices make speech recognition even more of a feature. Apple’s Siri, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa are personal assistants who’ll listen to what you say, figure out what you mean by applying artificial intelligence, and then attempt to do what you ask, whether it’s looking up a phone number, buying something online or booking a table at a local restaurant. They work by linking speech recognition to complex natural language processing (NLP) systems, so they can figure out not just what you say, but what you actually mean, and what you really want to happen as a consequence.

What about in the future?

We’re used to activating our home speaker with a voice command such as ‘Hey, Siri’ for Apple Pod, ‘Okay Google’ for Google Home and ‘Alexa’ for Amazon Echo. However, very soon we may not need those wake words as thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) the device would know what direction your voice is coming from.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a machine learning model that uses the power of AI to estimate the direction a voice is coming from. It can even indicate your intent without the need for a specific phrase or gesture.

The system has been trained to recognise that the first, loudest and clearest sound is always the one that is aimed at a given subject, because anything else tends to be quieter, muttered and delayed. The algorithm has also been trained that human speech frequencies vary depending on the direction you’re facing. Researchers claim that this method is “lightweight” as it is software-based and doesn’t require sending audio data to the cloud.

Despite this development, it could take a while before the model is implemented more widely. Until then, we have developed a checklist of what personal assistants activated by voice commands like Amazon Echo and Google Home can do.

Do you have any questions about voice recognition technology? Let us know by commenting below.