Your computer could shout back at you in a few years

July 5th, 2011 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 5 (IANS) The computer crashes and we respond angrily at the flickering screen. But we may soon risk being shouted at by the machine we’ve just cursed.

Scientists are building a voice-activated device that can interact with people in a “natural and intelligent way”. Artificial intelligence will help it become familiar with a user’s voice, with the ultimate goal of understanding a human and speaking and behaving like them.

The five-year, 6.2 million pound project is still in its infancy but researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge and Sheffield believe the technology will have many benefits, the Daily Mail reports.

It could improve voice-activated computers, develop web search engines for audio clips, and create voice-controlled devices for the home. The latter could help older people stay independent for longer.

Prof Steve Renals, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said: “We are working to develop technologies that can recognise and generate natural-sounding speech.

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

It is hoped the technology which responds to speech could soon be able to recognise an individual’s voice and become familiar with their vocabulary, accent and vocal expressions, he said.

It could also be able to follow the flow of a conversation and to gloss over changes in background noise. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Thomas Hain, of the University of Sheffield’s department of computer science, added: “Speech technology is clearly on its way into the mainstream, but the key to its success is human-like performance.”

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