According to this news release from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the National Science Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to a team of CMU and researchers at the University of California at Berkeley to develop a silicon chip for automatic speech recognition. In fact, speech recognition will move from software to hardware. The goal of the engineers is to develop "a radically new and efficient silicon chip architecture that only does speech recognition, but does this 100 to 1,000 times more efficiently than a conventional computer." Even if the future chips will be integrated in cell phones or PDAs, the real goal is to help security and emergency organizations. These chips should be ready in three years. Read more...
Here is the introduction.
Carnegie Mellon University's Rob A. Rutenbar is leading a national research team to develop a new, efficient silicon chip that may revolutionize the way humans communicate and have a significant impact on America's homeland security.
Rutenbar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, working jointly with researchers at the University of California at Berkeley received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to move automatic speech recognition from software into hardware.
Rutenbar has a funny way to describe the problem of speech recognition.
"I can ask my cell phone to 'Call Mom,'" says Rutenbar, "but I can't dictate a detailed email complaint to my travel agent or navigate a complicated Internet database by voice alone."
The problem is power -- or rather, the lack of it. It takes a very powerful desktop computer to recognize arbitrary speech. "But we can't put a Pentium in my cell phone, or in a soldier's helmet, or under a rock in a desert," explains Rutenbar, "the batteries wouldn't last 10 minutes."
With this goal in mind, he wants to develop a chip that handles only the task of speech recognition, but a thousand times faster than regular computers do with software.
So what's to expect from these new chips when they're on the market in three years?
"We're still not even close to having a voice interface that will let you throw away your keyboard and mouse, but this current research could help us see speech as the primary modality on cell phones and PDAs," said Richard Stern, a professor in electrical and computer engineering and the team's senior speech recognition expert. "To really throw away the keyboard, we have to go to silicon."
But enhanced conversations between people and consumer products is not the main goal. "Homeland security applications are the big reason we were chosen for this award," says Rutenbar. "Imagine if an emergency responder could query a critical online database with voice alone, without returning to a vehicle, in a noisy and dangerous environment. The possibilities are endless."
Sources: Carnegie Mellon University news release, September 13, 2004; and other CMU pages