Now, a ‘Vocal Joystick’ that uses voice to surf the web

November 14th, 2007 - 1:59 am ICT by admin  
According to Jeffrey Bilmes, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering, the software is for those who have perfect use of their voice but cannot use their hands and arms.

“I think there are several reasons why Vocal Joystick might be a better approach, or at least a viable alternative, to brain-computer interfaces,” Bilmes said.

Vocal Joystick detects sounds 100 times a second and instantaneously turns that sound into movement on the screen. Different vowel sounds dictate the direction: “ah,” “ee,” “aw” and “oo” and other sounds move the cursor one of eight directions. Users can transition smoothly from one vowel to another, and louder sounds make the cursor move faster. The sounds “k” and “ch” simulate clicking and releasing the mouse buttons.

Versions of Vocal Joystick exist for browsing the Web, drawing on a screen, controlling a cursor and playing a video game. A version also exists for operating a robotic arm, and Bilmes believes the technology could be used to control an electronic wheelchair. ocal Joystick requires only a microphone and a computer with a standard sound card. A version of the software can be used to control a robotic arm.A lot of people ask: ‘Why don’t you just use speech recognition?’ It would be very slow to move a cursor using discrete commands like ‘move right’ or ‘go faster.’ The voice, however, is able to do continuous commands quickly and easily,” Bilmes said.

The newest development, which will be presented this month at the Computers and Accessibility conference in Tempe, Arizona, uses Vocal Joystick to control a robotic arm. The pitch of the tone moves the arm up and down; other commands are unchanged. This is the first time that vocal commands have been used to control a three-dimensional object, Bilmes said.

One initial concern, he said, was whether people would feel self-conscious using the tool.

“But once you try it you immediately forget what you’re saying. I usually go to the New York Times’ Web site to test the system and then I get distracted and start reading the news. I forget that I’m using it, he said.esearchers have been testing the device with spinal cord injury patients at the University of Washington Medical Center.It’s a really exciting idea. I think it has tremendous potential,” said Kurt Johnson, a professor of rehabilitation medicine who is helping with the tests.

Bilmes said he hopes people will become more adept at using the system over time. Future research will incorporate more advanced controls that use more aspects of the human voice, such as repeated vocalizations, vibrato, degree of nasality and trills. (ANI)

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