Alternatively referred to as speech recognition, voice recognition is a computer software program or hardware device with the ability to decode the human voice. Voice recognition is commonly used to operate a device, perform commands, or write without having to use a keyboard, mouse, or press any buttons. Today, this is done on a computer with ASR (automatic speech recognition) software programs. Many ASR programs require the user to "train" the ASR program to recognize their voice so that it can more accurately convert the speech to text. For example, you could say "open Internet" and the computer would open the Internet browser.
The first ASR device was used in 1952 and recognized single digits spoken by a user (it was not computer driven). Today, ASR programs are used in many industries, including healthcare, military (e.g., F-16 fighter jets), telecommunications, and personal computing (i.e. hands-free computing).
What does voice recognition require?
For voice recognition to work, you must have a computer with a sound card and either a microphone or a headset. Other devices like smart phones have all of the necessary hardware built into the device. Also, the software you use needs voice recognition support, or if you want to use voice recognition everywhere, you need a program like Nuance Naturally Speaking to be installed.
If you are using Microsoft Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10, you can also use the included Windows Speech Recognition program.
Tip: Although speech recognition can be done using any microphone, you get much better results if you use a headset.
Examples of where you might have used voice recognition
As voice recognition improves, it is being implemented in more places and its very likely you have already used it. Below are some good examples of where you might encounter voice recognition.
- Automated phone systems - Many companies today use phone systems that help direct the caller to the correct department. If you have ever been asked something like "Say or press number 2 for support" and you say "two," you used voice recognition.
- Google Voice - Google voice is a service that allows you to search and ask questions on your computer, tablet, and phone.
- Digital assistant - Amazon Echo, Apple's Siri, and Google Assistant use voice recognition to interact with digital assistants that helps answer questions.
- Car Bluetooth - For cars with Bluetooth or Handsfree phone pairing, you can use voice recognition to make commands, such as "call my wife" to make calls without taking your eyes off the road.
Types of voice recognition systems
Automatic speech recognition is just one example of voice recognition. Below are other examples of voice recognition systems.
- Speaker dependent system - The voice recognition requires training before it can be used, which requires you to read a series of words and phrases.
- Speaker independent system - The voice recognition software recognizes most users' voices with no training.
- Discrete speech recognition - The user must pause between each word so that the speech recognition can identify each separate word.
- Continuous speech recognition - The voice recognition can understand a normal rate of speaking.
- Natural language - The speech recognition not only can understand the voice, but can also return answers to questions or other queries that are being asked.