Project to create smooth-talking gadgets

Voice-activated devices that can interact with people naturally may soon be available, thanks to University research.

Researchers will use sophisticated computing techniques to create a combined system that can not only understand the spoken word well but can also synthesise voices that sound natural.

Equipped with artificial intelligence, the technology will be able to become familiar with a user’s voice.

Clever communication

Scientists say the technology could have many benefits.

These include improved voice-activated computers and communications technology.

The technology could aid development of web search engines for audio clips.

Understanding accents

Technology that responds to speech commands could soon be able to recognise an individual's voice.

It could also become familiar with a person’s vocabulary, accent and vocal expressions.

The technology could also be able to follow the flow of a conversation and to gloss over changes in background noise.

Practical applications

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge and Sheffield aim to develop the systems over the next five years.

The £6.2 million project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Speech technology also has the potential to create voice-controlled devices for the home, which could help older people stay independent.

The technology could also be adopted for use in speech therapy.

This research could open the door to computer speech technology becoming commonplace throughout our lives – at home, at work, and in our leisure time.

Professor Steve RenalsSchool of Informatics
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