Voice control moves into our homes

As we become more comfortable with technology in our lives, the idea of new products in the home don’t seem as daunting. But the prospect of speaking to a device that can turn on your lights, switch on your television, create shopping lists and play any song you want may seem a tad intrusive for a first-timer.

We have seen voice control before, as a way to access to confidential information and with Siri built into Apple phones. The technology behind it involves voice recoginition software that analyses the pattern of a voice (spectograms) – and use that to predict new patterns.

There are a couple of layers in processing speech. First, the device tries to understand the consonants and the vowels and then it uses those to make intelligent guesses about the words. And then higher.

The same approach is actually applied to image analysis where you try to first detect edges in an image. Then check for edges close to each other to find a corner. Then go higher from there.

The new products on the market for voice control in the home is Amazon’s Alexa (£89.99) and the Xbox One (£229.00) with kinect voice commands. Alexa (named after the ancient library of Alexandria) lets you speak your wishes to an Echo smart speaker and see them fulfilled—at least simple ones, like dimming your lights or playing music tracks with a simple command word. Voice control on the Xbox uses Cortana and functions with phrases like ‘Xbox on’ to wake up the system/turn on the TV and ‘Xbox select’ to shows master voice command options.

It might sound like something off ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Phil of the Future’ but recent advancements in speech recognition technology have made a voice-controlled smart home completely attainable in the coming years.

Jasmine Amara

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